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Congressional Pay Freeze and Fiscal Responsibility Act

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to this bill, H.R. 6726, which seeks to extend the pay freeze on the dedicated men and women of our civil service for the third consecutive year.

This is a pig in a poke.

From the outset, let me be clear. I strongly support freezing the salaries of Members of Congress. I've signed a letter to do that. And if this bill did only that, I would be an original cosponsor. But it doesn't. The Senate last night did just that. It froze our salaries. But it didn't do this. It didn't extend that freeze for a third year to the men and women who serve our country in Federal service.

The bill before us today, which cynically pairs a pay freeze for us in Congress with a continuation of the pay freeze on career civil servants, is yet another tired, duplicative, and cheap shot at our Nation's dedicated Federal workforce. It's one last parting shot in the dying days of this Congress, which cannot die too soon.

If Members of Congress and the public simply take a look at the scoreboard, they'll see that, with respect to the deficit reduction, Federal workers not only have borne a disproportionate share of the cost, they've virtually borne the only share of the cost. Federal employees have contributed already $103 billion toward deficit reduction through an extended pay freeze that continues to this day--and benefit cuts.

For example, Federal workers have contributed $60 billion towards deficit reduction as a result of the 2-year pay freeze covering 2011 and 2012. The recent pay freeze extension through March of this year adds another $28 billion. This total also includes the $15 billion contribution that will be made by Federal new hires who, starting next year, will see their pay decrease by 2.3 percent as contributions to their pensions are raised compared to current civil servants, with no commensurate increase in benefits. Meanwhile, this inequity is amplified when one compares the financial sacrifice made by our dedicated civil service to the deficit reduction contributions made by millionaires and billionaires over the past 2 years.

I might add, as if it weren't enough, my friends on the Republican side of the aisle actually tried for the first time to finance transit in America--in a transportation bill that died an ignominious and well-deserved death--$50 billion by having these same pension benefit cuts on existing civil servants, which would have added $50 billion more to the deficit reduction cost only apportioned to Federal workers. Meanwhile, if I'm not mistaken, compared to the $103 billion deficit reduction contribution by Federal employees, the deficit reduction sacrifices--that shared sacrifice my friend from Pennsylvania referred to--has demanded of millionaires and billionaires adds up to a grand total of zero. Yet, despite these facts, there are still some attempting to squeeze even more deficit reduction out of Federal workers, even as they seek to protect the millionaires and billionaires who have yet to make any contribution to debt reduction in this country.

Republicans in the 112th Congress have treated Federal employees like America's piggybank, dipping into pay and benefits to help pay for everything from the payroll tax cut to unemployment benefits to transit in the transportation bill.

Federal employees are on the front line of communities throughout America. They defend America. They serve side-by-side with our military in theaters of war. They put out fires. They process Social Security checks. They deal with the sick and they deal with our children. They protect our borders. I strongly oppose any attempt to cut benefits and wages that Federal employees have earned by providing essential services to all Americans.

Given the very small share of the Federal budget represented by Federal employees' salaries, further reducing their pay and benefits is not rational and not an effective way to reduce our Nation's debt. It's picking on them.

I urge my colleagues to vote against this bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. I must say I appreciate the gentlelady's points about cynicism. But Federal workers and the American public might be forgiven for thinking that it is cynical to be decrying a last-minute deal necessitated by the fact that the House has been out for 15 of the last 19 weeks in recess instead of doing its business here on the House floor, which is why we're here today.

By the way, I also want to appreciate, because I know it wasn't a cheap shot, and I know that the distinguished chairman of the committee was trying to inform me of the fact that a bill I was not aware of was introduced yesterday. If there is a clean bill introduced by my friends from Minnesota and Pennsylvania simply to freeze congressional salaries, I'm only too happy to cosponsor it. I know that will reassure my friend, the chairman of the committee.

I now yield such time as he may consume to the distinguished ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Cummings).

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Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I would simply observe to my friend, the chairman of the committee, in talking about the 11 percent cut here in the House of Representatives, of course that does not address the lack of productivity here in the House. There are many Americans who might think that that cut is deserved given how little got accomplished in the 112th Congress--one of the least productive Congresses in American history.

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Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. I would normally yield, but I would remind my friend, Mr. Speaker, that he would not yield to me when he made his comments about cosponsorship of the piece of legislation, and so I reluctantly will not yield.

I now yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Lynch).

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Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, before I call on the distinguished Member from Virginia, I would simply note, of course, the productivity I talk about is the productivity of this legislative body, not the honorable men and women who serve us, but for us.

And we passed a fewer number of bills in living memory. We have been out for 15 weeks since August instead of doing the people's business. That is one of the least productive records in American history, and no words are going to change that, not in the history books and not in the minds of the American public that is showing its disapproval of that productivity with the low approval ratings of this Congress.

I now am pleased to yield 3 minutes to the distinguished Member from Virginia (Mr. Moran).

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Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. I'm prepared to wrap up and yield back, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I'm worried about the future of the Federal workforce's continued denigration of public service. Continued whacking away at compensation and benefits that make it an attractive career choice for so many young people is going to make it much harder to recruit and retain the skilled workforce of the future. And despite what my colleague just indicated--I'm not quite sure where he got his statistics--the Federal Salary Council, which looks at Federal salaries every year, concluded that Federal employees earned, in 2011, 26.3 percent less than their private sector counterparts and, this year, 34.6 percent less. A CBO study found that people in the Federal workforce with a Ph.D. degree earn 23 percent less than their private sector counterparts, and if you had a bachelor's degree, roughly 23 percent less, and only in the high school level did they actually earn more, 21 percent more.

Actually, we've got a problem. As we look at the baby boom generation getting ready to retire, 47 percent of the entire existing workforce is eligible for retirement over this next decade. How will we recruit and retain that workforce if we're going to continue to use them not only as a piggy bank to finance the deficit, but perhaps more disgracefully as a punching bag in terms of disparagement of service? We are far away from John Kennedy's call to serve your country.

Mr. Speaker, with that, I yield back the balance of my time.

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