SENSE OF HOUSE REGARDING RULES OF COMPENSATION FOR CIVILIAN EMPLOYEES AND MEMBERS OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES OF THE UNITED STATES -- (House of Representatives - March 31, 2004)
Mr. LINDER. Mr. Speaker, by direction of the Committee on Rules, I call up House Resolution 585 and ask for its immediate consideration.
The Clerk read the resolution, as follows:
H. Res. 585
Resolved, That upon the adoption of this resolution it shall be in order to consider in the House the resolution (H. Res. 581) expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding rates of compensation for civilian employees and members of the uniformed services of the United States. The resolution shall be considered as read for amendment. The previous question shall be considered as ordered on the resolution and preamble to final adoption without intervening motion except: (1) one hour of debate equally divided and controlled by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on Government Reform; and (2) one motion to recommit which may not contain instructions.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Linder) is recognized for 1 hour.
Mr. LINDER. Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of debate only, I yield the customary 30 minutes to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings), pending which I yield myself such time as I may consume. During consideration of this resolution, all time yielded is for the purpose of debate only.
Mr. Speaker, H. Res. 585 is a closed rule that provides for the consideration of H. Res. 581, expressing the sense of the House regarding rates of compensation for civilian employees and members of the uniformed services of the United States.
The rule provides for 1 hour of debate in the House equally divided and controlled by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on Government Reform. The rule also provides one motion to recommit which may not contain instructions.
Mr. Speaker, with respect to H. Res. 581, the underlying resolution, I want to commend the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Tom Davis), chairman of the Committee on Government Reform, who has spent significant time working on this important issue for this Nation's Federal civilian employees and military personnel.
The Committee on Government Reform has held several hearings on the state of the Federal workforce. At the conclusion of those hearings, it determined that some managers may not be able to attract or retain skilled employees to the Federal workforce due to a pay gap between Federal civilian employees and their private sector counterparts.
The concept of pay parity is based on two factors: first, an acknowledgment that the pay for civilian Federal employees and military personnel has not kept pace with the private sector; and, second, a belief that there is a need to reduce the disparity in pay between civilian Federal employees and military personnel.
The pay parity issue was not addressed in the House-passed fiscal year 2005 budget resolution. Therefore, H. Res. 581 offers every Member of the House the opportunity to express their opinion on whether or not they believe that pay for civilian Federal employees should be adjusted at the same time and in the same proportion as pay for the members of the uniformed services.
Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this rule so that we may proceed to debate H. Res. 581.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the Military and Civilian Employees Pay Parity Resolution and the rule providing for its consideration. This underlying resolution is imperative for it expresses the sense of Congress that the government should provide fair compensation for Federal employees in order to encourage citizens to pursue a life of public service.
Federal employees consistently demonstrate the best that our government has to offer, and their contributions directly improve the lives of all Americans.
When we speak of Federal employees, we speak not only of the brave men and women of the Armed Forces but also of the men and women of literally hundreds of agencies dealing with thousands of issues. With nearly 1 million employees, the Federal Government is the largest employer in the United States. Thirty-two thousand Federal employees live in and/or around my south Florida district alone.
Employees of the Central Intelligence Agency work in oftentimes arduous conditions to safeguard our country from those who mean to do us harm.
Federal Emergency Management Agency employees provide disaster relief assistance, supplying shelter, food and funds to victims of natural disasters.
Customs agents and Transportation Security Administration officials protect our borders and our skies, and firefighters and other Federal law enforcement personnel across the Nation are our first responders to a range of hazards that can affect entire cities or single homes.
These are just a few of those Federal employees, including the fine people that do the work here transcribing our words, the clerks that work with us, the Capitol Police, the security guards, all are Federal employees; and, in my judgment, many of them do not receive fair compensation for their hard work.
Mr. Speaker, much of the world comes to know the face of America from the dedicated Federal employees living in this country and working abroad.
All of these hard-working employees deserve the unequivocal support of this body. Even more, they deserve just and fair compensation that competes with the private sector and rises to meet the living standards enjoyed by many Americans.
Increases in the pay of military and Federal civilian employees have not kept pace with the overall pay levels of private sector employees. There currently exists a gap of 32 percent between compensation levels of Federal civilian employees and those of private sector workers and an estimated 5.7 percent gap between compensation levels of members of the uniformed services and those of private sector workers. This glaring discrepancy greatly hampers the ability to recruit and retain quality employees.
To run efficiently and effectively, and to provide necessary services to the American people, the Federal Government needs to attract skilled, educated, and motivated people. We must provide Federal employees with an appropriate level of salary and benefits to encourage people to pursue a career of Federal service, whether civilian or military. Potential Federal employees must be made to understand that choosing a career of public service is not akin to taking a vow of poverty. The contributions one can make within the Federal service are lasting, desirable, and beneficial to the entire country.
I stand with my Democratic colleagues today as we point out that instead of debating a resolution expressing the sense of Congress, we should be debating a bill that actually establishes just compensation as public policy. It is shameful that while the administration and this body insist on providing a $1 trillion tax cut for the wealthiest among us, the Republican-passed budget leaves Federal employees to cope with rising health care and education costs without adequate compensation for their jobs.
This body's failure to ensure just compensation is yet another sad example of enriching the wealthy at the expense of middle-class America. I look forward to a day when this Congress will act to provide an equitable living standard for the middle class instead of just simply raising the idea.
Mr. Speaker, let me conclude by again expressing my support for this legislation and encouraging my colleagues to support it. As the old saying goes, though, talk is cheap. It is now time for this body to put its money where our mouths are and include real pay parity in the budget resolution.
Mr. Speaker, I do have additional comments that are unrelated to the parity issue. Because I do serve with my colleague on the Committee on Rules, I also feel the need to make a comment on recent issues which have taken place in the Committee on Rules.
We are experiencing a greater and greater breakdown of comity within the Committee on Rules that has me very troubled. The minority no longer receives timely notice of when the majority intends to make announcements. We no longer receive materials or even a notice that materials are available on a timely basis.
We did not, for example, receive notice from the majority that the chairman of the Committee on Rules was going to make a unanimous consent agreement last night on transportation. Although we knew from our leadership that this was going to take place, it is only a common courtesy between the majority and the minority of a committee that the minority be notified before the chairman makes announcements on the floor. Similarly, the manager's amendment for the transportation bill was apparently made available to the majority last night, but Democrats received it this morning.
I raise these issues here, Mr. Speaker, not in derogation of the issue before us, but because this is just the tip of the iceberg. No one in the minority disputes that the majority of the committee, in conjunction with the Republican leadership, controls what happens here on the House floor. But there are rules for each committee, rules which the majority is supposed to follow. And the frequency with which the majority on the Committee on Rules has taken to violating those rules and practices is increasing; and it needs to stop, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. LINDER. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.