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Mr. CONNOLLY. Madam Speaker, I appreciate the comments we've just heard. The bill before us today is just the latest partisan jab at Federal employees who are on the front lines protecting and serving our constituents every day.
I remind my colleagues that more than 85 percent of Federal employees do not work here in the D.C. region. They live and work in your districts. They are the law enforcement agents, park rangers, researchers, and health inspectors who make our communities safer. These are middle class families struggling to make ends meet just like everybody else, yet House Republicans have routinely used them as a punching bag, chipping away at their pay and their benefits. So far, the tab is $103 billion and counting. It is time to say, "Enough.''
I was pleased to join with Congressman Bera and 10 of our colleagues in cosponsoring the amendment Mr. Polis referred to this partisan bill that at least would have separated the questions of freezing our pay from that of Federal employees. In fact, three such amendments were submitted, but each was rejected by the Republicans in the Rules Committee, underscoring that this really is nothing more than another political potshot at Federal employees and using us as the subterfuge.
If anyone's salary should be frozen as a result of our Nation's fiscal paralysis, it's ours; it's Members of Congress. That's why I introduced an alternative bill, H.R. 636, with Ranking Member Cummings from the Oversight Committee, to freeze Member salaries for the duration of this Congress. Of course, my Republican colleagues fail to acknowledge that we already voted to freeze Member salaries through September of this year, as Mr. Polis indicated, so there is no real sense of urgency here.
Why aren't we spending this time working on a bipartisan solution to avert the devastating consequences of sequestration 2 weeks from now? The $85 billion in across-the-board cuts in defense and domestic spending for the rest of this fiscal year would slam the brakes on this economy and throw us potentially back into recession.
GDP performance in the fourth quarter shows that. It declined by one-tenth of 1 percent, largely because of shrinkage in public sector investments. That was led by a 22 percent drop in defense spending, the largest since the end of the Vietnam War. My colleagues on the other side of the aisle have shown almost no interest in addressing this threat, despite the pleadings of the Secretary of Defense.
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