This was a vote on an amendment to exempt buildings that provide services to veterans from a program that would sell off unneeded federal property.
Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME) offered the amendment during consideration of legislation that would establish a commission designed to identify property that the federal government owns but does not need. The commission would then recommend properties to the president and Congress for sale. The goal was to reduce the federal government’s portfolio of unnecessary property, raise money, and save in the long term by eliminating the cost of keeping up the property.
Some property like military installations and national parks would not be eligible for sale under the program, and Rep. Michaud argued that Congress should also exempt properties that are used to provide health care, housing assistance, and other services to military veterans.
“The VA already provides health care to approximately 7.8 million veterans. As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, more and more of the 2.3 million soldiers from those wars will start to seek care from the Veterans Administration,” Rep. Michaud said. “I can understand why it makes sense to target the poor management and underutilization of government properties to reduce government waste, but I don't think our desire to address these issues should come at the expense of our veterans.”
Republicans argued that if the property-sale program must look at every federal agency – including the veterans’ programs – to accomplish its mission of addressing waste in government.
“If we're going to do the best interest of American taxpayers, we've got to address waste in government overall, across the entire nation, across every agency,” Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) said. “If there's a property not being used today, then we ought to look at either redeveloping it or selling it off.”
Rep. Michaud offered his amendment as a “motion to recommit.” A motion to recommit is the minority's opportunity to torpedo or significantly change a bill before a final up-or-down vote on the measure. If approved, the House Republican leaders would have been forced to add the amendment to the bill before allowing a final up-or-down vote.
Rep. Michaud’s motion was defeated by a vote of 186-238. Voting “yea” were 185 Democrats and 1 Republican. Voting “nay” were 237 Republicans and 1 Democrat. As a result, the House moved to a final vote on legislation to sell off unneeded federal property without adding an exemption for buildings that provide health care and other services to veterans.