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Alcee H.
Democrat FL 20

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  • Providing for Consideration of H.R. 273, Elimination of 2013 Pay Adjustment, and for Other Purposes

    by Representative Alcee L. Hastings

    Posted on 2013-02-14

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    HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I thank my good friend, the gentleman from Georgia, for yielding the customary 30 minutes to me. I rise obviously in opposition to the rule for consideration of H.R. 273, to eliminate the 2013 statutory pay adjustment for Federal employees.

    I just heard my colleague from Georgia say that this is a good rule; but I've also heard him say what I agree with very frequently, and that is that this body should proceed toward regular order, allow the committee process to go forward in a meaningful way, to have hearings, and to let the will of the body be worked here in the people's House. I've also heard him talk about closed rules; and it's for that reason that I believe that this process is not a good process because it is a closed rule, and this couldn't, in that sense, be good. There were no hearings.

    He talks about this one week, one bill. Why this week for Federal employees? Last night, I talked with six members of the American Federation of Government Employees, some of them older, some of them younger, and all of them agonizing, as are Federal employees around the country.

    {time} 1400 Let me get to the point. The Republicans have decided that they want to continue in the same shortsighted and counterproductive campaign against Federal employees that we saw in the last Congress. When they introduced this very same bill in the 112th Congress, it passed the House and then went nowhere and accomplished absolutely nothing. I'm quite certain--and I'll bet--that it will face the same fate this time around.

    Just last week, the Rules Committee considered H.R. 444, the Require a PLAN Act, which should have been called the ``Republicans Have No Plan Act.'' Instead of offering real solutions to the challenges facing our Nation, my Republican colleagues continue to introduce do-nothing legislation that will do nothing to help the American people.

    Obviously, all of us know that we face $85 billion in sequestration cuts in a matter of weeks. These cuts were intended to be a fail-safe. They were supposed to be so unpalatable, so horrible for everyone, that Congress would never allow them to go into effect. Yet, instead of making sure that these massive cuts don't threaten the progress that we've made, my friends on the other side would rather play politics at the expense of the middle class and the working poor, underscoring the working poor.

    As the President put it in his State of the Union address: ``Arbitrary deficit reduction is not an economic plan.'' Deficit reduction is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. It is just one tool that will help us get our country back on the right track. You can't build a house with just a saw. Deficit reduction needs to be part of a comprehensive economic plan, one that will stimulate growth and create jobs.

    A serious economic plan is one that does not take potshots at our economy and our Nation's full faith and credit for political purposes. We must, in this people's House, move beyond politics and work to avoid a dangerous backslide in our Nation's economic recovery.

    For the life of me, I can't even begin to understand why House Republicans continue to pick on Federal employees. It's as if the people that keep the Capitol clean, the police officers that keep us safe, the countless people that work right here on this Capitol complex do not deserve this paltry raise and are to be picked on.

    My AFGE friends were saying to me last night that Federal employees have already contributed $103 billion towards deficit reduction. Furthermore, Federal employees and retirees have contributed $15 billion in savings over 10 years through an increased pension contribution. A 2-year Federal pay freeze has been in effect since 2011 and will produce an additional $60 billion in savings. The reduction and delay of a 2013 pay increase included in the current continuing resolution will yield $28 billion in savings.

    At what point does enough, as my friend from Virginia said, become enough? What's more and puzzles me--and I asked the question of the scrivener of this bill last evening--is: Why aren't Federal contractors, who make twice as much as Federal employees, included in this pay freeze? He gave me some political fogging. I don't know what it was and don't care to even bother to try to remember.

    During the debate over the fiscal cliff, Republicans said that we shouldn't ask corporations and the wealthiest in our society to pay their fair share. The reason that was put--this is a while back during the debate on the fiscal cliff--was that if we tax the wealthy, they won't work as hard if they're taking home less money. What about Federal employees? Why is it that that logic does not apply here? It's incomprehensible that we find ourselves in this position.

    Mr. Speaker, if the Federal Government is not paying realistic salaries, then we can't expect to be able to provide for people to allow for themselves and their families to have a decent living.

    Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that the Federal workforce is smaller now than it was in 1988, a historic low compared to the size of the national population. There are fewer Federal workers now than at any time during President Reagan's administration. Something has got to give.

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