While Republicans Lurch Between Shutdown Threats, Oversight Democrats Support Biden-Harris Administration’s Efforts to Improve Government Services
Washington, D.C. (November 15, 2023)—Hours before the Republican-led House averted another government shutdown by kicking its government funding problems into next year, Rep. Jamie Raskin, Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Accountability, led Committee Democrats in underscoring their steadfast commitment to improving government services for the American people in a hearing on the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).
“While Democrats are working with GSA on improving government service, extreme MAGA Republicans spent weeks embroiled in internal partisan combat and Machiavellian games. This hearing was originally scheduled for October 19, but Chairman Comer canceled it the night before. Perhaps he was concerned that holding a hearing to criticize the operations of the federal government on Day 16 without a Speaker of the House—a vivid demonstration of Republicans’ inability to handle even their own operations—would not make for a convincing show,” said Ranking Member Raskin in his opening statement. “If my colleagues across the aisle are truly concerned about the importance of ensuring effective government for our people, they could start by getting their act together.”
The hearing included testimony from Robin Carnahan, Administrator of the GSA.
Committee Democrats emphasized how Republicans’ political gamesmanship of the federal government hurts Americans and our allies around the world.
- In discussing House Republicans’ proposed budget cuts to GSA, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton explained: “GSA is responsible for the efficient and effective functioning of our government. When its budget is slashed, the consequences are far-reaching and, more often than not, counterproductive. In fact, funding cuts to GSA translate to increased expenses for the American people.”
- Highlighting the need to fund federal agencies appropriately, Rep. Jasmine Crockett asked Administrator Carnahan about the real-world effects of budget uncertainty on the government’s long-term commercial leases. Administrator Carnahan responded: “Not having clarity about what a budget is going to be and kicking the can down the road to the next year doesn’t make the costs go down—it makes the costs go up.”
- Noting Congress’s role assisting America’s allies abroad, Rep. Dan Goldman stressed the irony of holding a hearing on Republican criticisms of GSA’s role in optimizing the federal building footprint while democracies across the world fight to survive. He stated that Republicans “refuse to unify the Congress to fund our democratic allies fighting terrorism and authoritarianism around the world.” He added, “Republicans are holding that aid hostage with their political gimmicks and games. And here we are talking about office space.”
Committee Democrats underscored how GSA’s leadership is supporting transformative change in the federal government to address 21st century challenges, including the climate crisis.
- In reviewing Administrator Carnahan’s leadership at GSA, Rep. Shontel Brown commented, “I was pleased to hear about the Workplace 2030 Initiative, in which GSA is preparing for the future of federal work, and the GSA’s groundbreaking plans to center the climate crisis by transitioning to a fully electric federal fleet and pivoting to climate conscious construction materials. I’m also excited about GSA’s efforts to strengthen, support, and sustain women and minority-owned businesses through President Biden’s whole-of-government approach based in equity.
- Rep. Rashida Tlaib noted that GSA had reduced greenhouse gas emissions from its real estate portfolio by almost 60% in 2022 compared to 2008 levels and Administrator Carnahan explained: “I always talk about it as a triple win. It’s a thing that is creating jobs in America. It’s reducing costs because we’re making buildings more efficient, which means lower energy costs, which means lower costs to taxpayers. And we’re helping the climate.”
- Emphasizing GSA’s various initiatives to advance equity through local community goals, economic recovery, and environmental justice, Rep. Summer Lee touted the successes of the Good Neighbor Program. Administrator Carnahan explained that the program is about how GSA can “be positive drivers in communities.” Administrator Carnahan continued, “Siting decisions that impact communities ought to be done talking to communities. They’re the ones that know what they need, and where they can make urban planning decisions that can transform neighborhoods.”
Committee Democrats continued their efforts to improve government services that the American people rely on.
- Rep. Lee highlighted that “one of the many problems facing so many of these marginalized and underserved communities is the inequities in technology design and delivery. This means that those who most need government services will often have the most difficulty accessing them. GSA has indicated that improving this is a priority to better serve our communities.” In response, Administrator Carnahan confirmed, “It’s our job to serve everyone, which means not only do we need to focus on security and privacy and ease of access, but also accessibility.”
- Pointing to GSA’s governmentwide role to help agencies invest in technologies with good cybersecurity, Rep. Stephen Lynch noted the importance of GSA’s work to employ technology in service of the American people—particularly in protecting Americans’ data. “Our cybersecurity posture is extremely important in protecting all that information. Congress, in the American Rescue Plan, appropriated an additional $1 billion for the Technology Modernization Fund,” he said. Rep. Lynch highlighted specifically the “keen concern about the Department of Health and Human Services and the sensitivity of Americans’ health information” and encouraged Administrator Carnahan to ensure safety of Americans’ private data.