For a third time this year, Republicans in the House will hold a hearing at an unused federal building in Washington, D.C., making the case that Uncle Sam is needlessly spending millions of dollars every year to deal with real estate that could be used for other purposes.
"We've got buildings that have been empty for decades," said Rep. John Mica (R-FL), head of the House Transportation Committee, which oversees federal buildings and the General Services Administration.
Today, Mica and Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) will venture just over a mile down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the high-priced area of D.C. known as Georgetown, where an old heating plant sits idle - not far from a bustling tourist area.
"The Georgetown Heating Plant is an example of an underperforming building that if sold or redeveloped to better use could provide a positive return to the taxpayer," Republicans argued in a briefing memo for Tuesday's hearing.
"The facility was only declared surplus property in November 2011, 11 years after it was closed as a steam plant," read the memo, which says the GSA is aiming to sell the building by this fall.
"This city is full of vacant buildings," said Mica, who has railed against the cost of keeping federal buildings in the GSA inventory when no federal agencies are using them.
Republicans have been pressing the GSA for a full list of surplus federal property, with some lawmakers wanting to sell what is "excess" and others wanting to find ways to leverage new development around federal parcels.
But Republicans have been living in a "Catch-22" with the GSA - which hasn't exactly moved quickly to turnover data on surplus property - as Congress can't try to sell surplus property if the federal agency in charge of that property won't tell them what property is considered surplus.
The bottom line here is that this is about money; Republicans estimate that the feds spent $1.7 billion in 2009 for operating costs at "under-utilized" buildings, as well as $134 million for "excess buildings."
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