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Elijah C.
Democrat MD 7

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  • Congressional Pay Freeze and Fiscal Responsibility Act

    by Representative Elijah E. Cummings

    Posted on 2013-01-01

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    CUMMINGS. I want to thank the gentleman for yielding.

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 6726, which would extend the pay freeze on Federal employees through the end of 2013 and eliminate the pay adjustment for Members of Congress.

    I think we need to be very careful in this discussion. As my distinguished colleague from Virginia just stated, I don't think there's any Member of Congress that is against freezing the pay of Members of Congress. If I had known about the bill, I would have cosponsored it. I don't know when it was filed, but I would have cosponsored it, as he said he would have also. But this is a different issue.

    {time} 1250 I cannot understand why the House is considering this bill right now. The Senate just approved a landmark deal to avert the fiscal cliff with widespread bipartisan support--a vote of 89-8. Acting on the fiscal cliff legislation as soon as possible should be our first and most urgent order of business this afternoon. But instead, this bill--which is yet another assault on very hardworking, middle class American workers--was introduced not very long ago. Is this really the way the majority wants to begin the new year? Members of Congress certainly can do without a pay adjustment. And the bill passed by the Senate last night to resolve the fiscal cliff already includes a provision freezing Members' pay. I plan to vote for the package that came out of the Senate, assuming it stays in its present form. But Federal workers are the backbone of our government. Let me say that again: Federal workers are the backbone of our government. They're the ones who support our troops in the battlefield. They are the ones who provide care to our veterans. They're the same ones that bring about cures for dreadful diseases at NIH. They are the ones that protect our borders and safeguard our food supply. They're the same ones that ensure our seniors get their Social Security checks and help hunt down terrorists like Osama bin Laden. They're the same ones.

    In return for their hard work and dedication, the majority has rewarded Federal workers with an unprecedented assault on their compensation and on their benefits. This has included proposals to arbitrarily cut the number of Federal workers. All you've got to do in my district, when you go and visit a [[Page H7524]] place like Social Security and you talk to the employees--many of whom are my constituents--employee ranks are being decimated. People are working harder and harder without the help that they need. Our colleagues have gone on to slash retirement benefits and now with the most recent proposal to extend the current 2-year pay freeze for yet another year.

    I know all kinds of studies are presented to say that Federal workers are making a whole lot of money. Well, maybe we need to walk around and do a little survey of our own and talk to some of the people who work around here. Go to some of these Departments, Agriculture, the various Agencies, and talk to them. Talk to some of the ladies who may be a single-mother household making $45,000 a year; talk to her about a pay freeze. Talk to the gentlemen who moved our offices--we've seen them all in the House throughout our buildings--ask them about the pay freeze. Talk to them, and I think they will tell you another story.

    Millions of middle class Federal workers have already sacrificed more than $100 billion in the name of deficit reduction and to pay for the extension of unemployment benefits to millions of other workers; yet our House Republicans insist on raiding their pay and their benefits again. Enough is enough.

    We need to put aside this legislation and take up the fiscal cliff legislation immediately. The Senate has done its work, and now it is our responsibility.

    The one thing we should not do is let the markets open tomorrow without the fiscal cliff being resolved. As I listened to my good friend, Mr. Fitzpatrick, talk about this provision with regard to making sure that Members of Congress not get a pay increase--and I agree with him totally--I hope that he will also join me when I vote for the legislation that has been sent over here by the Senate since it contains that very, very important provision.

    With that, I wanted to thank again the gentleman for yielding.

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