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GSA Criticism Mirrors Fed Frustrations

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo

“They’ve identified, by their numbers, 14,000 properties that are underutilized or vacant properties that they should be selling off,” Denham said, adding that the agency has sold only 82 properties over the past 10 years.

Denham said he and his staff have discovered numerous vacant buildings that aren’t on the GSA’s list, some with hundreds of thousands of square feet, in cities across the country, including Miami, New York City and Washington, D.C.

In February 2011, Denham and Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) held a hearing at a vacant building — the Annex of the Old Post Office Building — that sits adjacent to the National Mall.

One year later, again in February, the two lawmakers held another hearing there — the building was still vacant.

However, until revelations about the Las Vegas conference came out April 2, Denham’s campaign had largely failed to gain any traction.

“It hasn’t been sexy until now,” he said.

In the meantime, he’s been waging a battle to learn more about the agency’s finances, including making 12 separate requests for information.

In the short term, Denham said to expect a number of bills to focus on some of the colorful expenses that ran up the cost of the Las Vegas conference.

While Democrats joined Denham in his criticisms of the agency, they do not join him on wanting to get rid of the GSA altogether.

“That’s absurd,” said a spokesman for Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chairman of an Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the GSA.

“Reforms? Yes. But to throw the baby out with the bathwater? No,” Transportation and Infrastructure ranking member Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) said.

“There’s a lot of good, hardworking government employees there that have the best interest of the American taxpayer at heart,” Rahall said.

“If you abolish it, who would manage the federal properties?” DeFazio asked.

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