House approves 'civilian BRAC' bill

Tuesday - 2/7/2012, 4:06pm EST

The House approved a bill Tuesday aimed at identifying underused federal buildings with the aim of eventually selling them off.

The bill sets up a commission, which would make recommendations to the President and Congress on disposing of some of the federal government's thousands of unneeded buildings. Congress would have to vote either to approve or disapprove the commission's choices.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), has argued the commission process would take the politics out of potentially volatile decisions to close and sell federal property, much as the Base Realignment and Closure plan did with consolidating military bases.

"The whole idea of this is to takes politics out of the process just like the BRAC Commission did," he told Federal News Radio in October, after the bill cleared the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Denham and other supporters of the bill estimate the commission could generate $15 billion in revenue from property sales over a decade.

The White House has also supported selling off excess federal properties. In his fiscal 2012 budget request, President Barack Obama included a provision that would have launched a panel tasked with examining and consolidating federal real property. The Office of Management and Budget took the lead in what became known as the "civilian BRAC" effort.

However, in a statement of administration policy, issued prior to the House vote, the White House said Denham's bill "does not go far enough to create a transformative process that would save taxpayers billions of dollars."

The fact that Congress must approve the closure plans sets apart from BRAC, the statement argued. The White House also pointed to "broad" exemptions to properties in the bill.

The White House also voiced objections over provisions relating to the National Environmental Policy Act and the General Services Administration's construction budget.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Denham, along with Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, will lead a hearing Thursday at the Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C., in an attempt to draw attention to underused federal buildings.

Meanwhile, the General Services Administration announced it has selected Donald Trump's organization to convert the the historic building into a 250-room hotel.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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