This vote was on a motion to preserve an amendment by Tom Coburn, R-Okla., that would create a pilot program to sell federal properties that were not being used. The amendment was offered to another amendment put forward by Jack Reed, D-R.I. Reed’s amendment would expand a program to provide federal funds for homeless shelters and education for homeless people. Both amendments were offered to a bill that would ease application and eligibility requirements for a $300 billion foreclosure prevention program enacted to help blunt the impact of the economic downturn.
Coburn said the federal government owns 69,000 pieces of property “we cannot get rid of” representing $83 billion in assets.
“What we set up is a pilot program that manages 150 pieces of property a year to dispose of them. It gives 20 percent to the agency, 80 percent back to the Government. It creates a way, in a pilot project, for us to do real property reform. We have gone through and we have created 250 homeless shelters out of 30,000 properties at a cost of $300 million. We are spending over $8 billion a year just maintaining properties we do not want, do not need, yet we cannot get rid of,” Coburn said.
Chris Dodd, D-Conn., agreed in general that the federal government does have too many properties to take care of and that as a result it ends up costing too much money. However, Dodd moved to defeat Coburn’s amendment on behalf of Jack Reed, whose amendment Coburn’s amendment would be attached, on the grounds that Coburn’s amendment is not related (“germane”) enough to the subject of Reed’s amendment.
When certain bills or amendments fall afoul of Senate rules, such as the one that requires amendments to be related to the subject of the bill they seek to modify, a senator can kill the amendment in question with a procedural motion, unless the Senate waives those rules. When Dodd made his motion, Coburn then made a motion that the rules be waived in his case, which is what this vote was on.
By a vote of 50-46, the motion was rejected. Though more voted yes than no, this particular type of vote requires a 60-vote majority in order to consider it successful. All but one Republican present voted for the motion. Of Democrats present, 11 voted for the motion and 43 voted against it. The end result is that the motion to waive the rules was rejected, Coburn’s amendment was defeated, and the measure went forward without language that would have created a pilot program to sell off federal properties that aren’t being used.