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The issue of what to do with the federal government’s vacant, underused or abandoned federal properties continues to advance through Congress, with a bipartisan group of senators unveiling a bill Thursday.

The federal government owns more than 1 million buildings, sheds, storage facilities and other structures across the country and around the world, making it the largest American property owner. The White House has identified 12,000 excess federal structures and 50,000 underused locations and President Obama has asked agencies to cut a combined $8 billion in building costs by the end of fiscal 2012.

In the most high profile example of such efforts, the General Services Administration is reviewing plans submitted by Donald Trump to assume control of the Old Post Office Building and turn it into a luxury hotel. The downtown Washington location has languished for years as federal officials have reviewed potential redevelopment plans.

The new Senate measure, introduced by Sens. Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska), would require agencies to review their excess properties in tandem and appoint a senior official to oversee property management issues. It also would push agencies to purchase properties instead of leasing commercial space and require them to submit justifications to Congress if leasing makes more sense.

“Fortunately, both Congress and the Obama Administration are united in their commitment to address the issue and I look forward to working with my colleagues to move this important bill forward,” Carper said in a statement.

With lawmakers focused on cutting government costs, the bill “is an easy step we can take to reduce budget spending,” Pryor added.

But the Senate bill differs from a House measure passed last month that would establish a commission to identify excess federal properties and push agencies to consolidate or sell of properties quickly. The Senate proposal has no plans for a separate buildings commission.

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