House GOP tells Biden to bring government workers back to the office or sell off unused real estate

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) said the administration must "hold a clearance sale on unused office space."

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This week, Republican members of Congress are telling the Biden administration to end COVID-era work-from-home policies or sell the unused office space that is costing taxpayers billions annually to maintain. 

The Daily Mail reported that it cost federal agencies in Washington DC over $7 billion to lease and maintain their offices, of which 75 percent currently remain vacant, according to the Government Accountability Office. 

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) told the outlet that the administration must "hold a clearance sale on unused office space," and that the "impact of telework" has to be "evaluated." 

One report revealed that government employees have taken advantage of the work-from-home policy by working from hot tubs, the golf course, and even attending happy hours. While at the same time, agencies deal with a backlog in services provided to citizens. 

"Many civil servants, like meat inspectors or airport security screeners, do not have the luxury of working from home, much less a bubble bath," Ernst added. 

Last month the Biden administration announced that remote work would end this fall. Chief of Staff Jeff Zients said in a directive, "We are returning to in-person work because it is critical to the well-being of our teams and will enable us to deliver better results for the American people." 

Other GOP lawmakers, including House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY), requested information on the number of employees who continue to work remotely and how the policy affected productivity. 

"One of two options is currently playing out: either federal agencies are withholding information from Congress or federal agencies are not tracking telework and remote work policies as required by the law. Both possibilities are deeply concerning," Comer said along with Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX). 

"It's illogical that VA employees are able to work from a bubble bath, while organizations across the country have safely re-opened," Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R) said when she introduced a companion bill to HR 139, also known as the SHOWUP Act, which the House passed in February. 

Office Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja claimed at a hearing in March that the work-from-home policies had a "positive impact workplace flexibilities have on areas such as productivity, engagement and diversifying the talent pool."

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