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Public Statements

Labor, Law and the Budget

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. KING of Iowa. Mr. Speaker, again it's my privilege to address you here on the floor of the United States House of Representatives, this great deliberative body. And I listened to the presentation in the previous segment, it brought a number of things to mind that I expect I'll address because there certainly is a different viewpoint, as we all know.

But before I get into the breadth and depth of the topic matter, I'd be very pleased to yield as much time as he may consume to the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Perry).

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. KING of Iowa. Reclaiming my time, I thank the gentleman from Pennsylvania for his presentation here. And as I listened to his presentation, the Benghazi incident comes to mind. And whether this is relevant or not is a question that I'm not necessarily prepared to answer, Mr. Speaker.

But I do want to make a statement on Benghazi. And I would remind people that we lost an Ambassador, we lost other brave Americans. We had multiple injuries and casualties there that perhaps, they run in numbers that might be counted in the dozens.

The public doesn't yet know a single name of any of the survivors. None of those on, let me say, our side of this argument of the incident in Benghazi know a single name of the survivors. We don't know the depth of the injuries that took place--and some of them were severely injured. They've been kept under wraps. They've been told, purportedly by the news, Mr. Speaker, that they should not speak and talk about what happened in Benghazi.

Now, I remember when Osama bin Laden met his justifiable end. This administration couldn't wait to come out before the cameras and tell us how that all unfolded and couldn't wait to tell us about every detail that wasn't classified on the end of Osama bin Laden's rein as the head of al Qaeda. They even showed us a picture of the situation room and who was in it. We saw the expressions on the faces of the people in the situation room, including the President, including the Secretary of State, including the Secretary of Defense. And we knew when they came into the situation room, when they heard the reports, how the decisions were made in that White House, and we knew when people left the situation room perhaps to go do something else. I don't remember any of them just simply going to bed.

But what we don't know is this--and this is what this Congress needs to put together. We need a committee that's comprised of the best individuals that we can find from the relevant committees here in this Congress, or any other individuals in this Congress that have special expertise that would raise their knowledge base and their credibility to the point where we can get the maximum report coming out of this Congress.

The circumstances that we have today on looking into the Benghazi incident and the events that flowed from that are several committees that have part of the jurisdiction. The Select Committee on Intelligence has part of the jurisdiction, and they've held some hearings and they have some knowledge. We don't know what that is. Much of it is classified. Much of it just isn't disseminated because that's not the nature of the Select Committee on Intelligence to disseminate information to the public.

Another area might be our Judiciary Committee, under the jurisdiction of what was lawful and what wasn't lawful on what took place there and what might we have been able to do. The Foreign Relations Committee has some jurisdiction. Armed Services has some jurisdiction. That's four committees that I can name off the top of my head, Mr. Speaker. Each of them have taken some kind of look into this.

But here's what happens. If you take a situation like Benghazi, or any major incident, and you break it down into four components and you assign, or the jurisdiction of each committee chair would look at this and claim jurisdiction, which they rightfully can do in this Congress, they would take their component of it, study it. They might write out a report, and it might be complete and it might be completely accurate. They can send that out, the unclassified portion, to the American people. That report goes out. Say that's the Select Committee on Intel.

Then, Mr. Speaker, the Foreign Affairs Committee can meet and they can call the witnesses that they choose to and gather that information and perhaps write a completely objective and completely truthful report and send it out to the public, all of that that's not classified. The same thing can happen with the Armed Services Committee. The same thing can happen with the Judiciary Committee or any other committees that might have some jurisdiction.

But, invariably, what you have are silos of information--a silo of information coming out of the Select Committee on Intel, part of it classified that would stay in there; a silo of information coming out of Armed Services, out of Judiciary, out of the Foreign Affairs Committee. And these silos of information, just like silos, don't match up. You can't square the circle with the information that comes because there are gaps in their jurisdiction and because there are gaps in the expertise that doesn't match together like a hand in glove or a finely machined gear. And even if they did match perfectly, you would still have four reports from four different committees presented to the public. Each one would have to be deciphered by whom? Scholars? The press? Who might it be?

So if we are going to get to the bottom of Benghazi, we've got to put together a selected committee that represents all of the jurisdictions in the United States Congress and all of the oversight in the United States Congress. And if we do that, then we have the kind of committee, a commission, that is similar in nature to that of the 9/11 Commission, or the Warren Commission, which produced, in the end, one composite report, a book, Mr. Speaker, that the American people can look at, that they can count on it being factual, they can count on it being objective. They can count on it, and they can critique it if they have information out there that challenges it.

The Warren Report was challenged, but it stands still as an accurate representation of the facts of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The 9/11 Commission stands alone. That report stands alone as the broadest and most objective and complete report that Congress could put together. And we have acted and reacted on recommendations from the 9/11 Commission.

We need to do the same thing with Benghazi. If we do not, Mr. Speaker, history will forever question whether there was a coverup on what happened in Benghazi. In fact, we already know there has been. We know that the administration went out and sent Susan Rice out to five different talk shows on Sunday, just several days later, to tell us that all of this violence that erupted in the streets of Benghazi came about because of a movie, a video that was produced.

Now, as far as I know, the individual that exercised his First Amendment rights to produce that video may still be in jail. That's the only punishment that's come out, that I know of, from Benghazi. I think he should be released. But that's the first story.

And then we've got different stories that were brought out of the administration, pried out, because usually the press, but sometimes an American citizen, found that information, got it out on the Internet, the press found it, and we've been picking up pieces of Benghazi for 6 months. And we still don't have the truth. The people who survived Benghazi need to come before this Congress, under oath, and tell us their story.

Now, if there are components of this that are classified, if our national security is at risk, then Members of this Congress should be called into a classified setting and told these are the reasons why we're covering this up. If this administration came open with Members of Congress, we would honor the reasons for a classified standing, but they have not. They tried to cover it up in the first place. They tried to convince us it was a video.

Since that time, the argument was made that there was no military relief that could have come into Benghazi because it was logistically not possible. That, I would say, is questionable at best. Piece after piece needs to come out into the public, Mr. Speaker. And I'm a strong advocate for Frank Wolf's proposal that we set up that committee to examine all of this and produce a report for the American people.

And so that's simply triggered by my questions when I listened to the gentleman from Pennsylvania. And I would expect that you would ask to yield if any of that was inaccurate.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

Mr. KING of Iowa. Reclaiming my time, Mr. Speaker, and saying a prayer myself: God bless that marine and the United States of America.

As we do this transition here this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to take up some of the topic of the previous speaker in the Democrat hour who spoke about labor and labor law. It was a strong message from often the opposite side of my viewpoint, and I'm compelled to speak to it in this way, and that is this:

First of all, labor is a commodity; it's a commodity like corn or beans or gold or oil. That labor is the supply, and its demand of labor sets the price of it, just like any other commodity. Yes, it's human beings and it's lives and it's families. As an employer, I met payroll for over 28 years--1,400-and-some consecutive weeks. There were times that we didn't go to the grocery store during those hard economic times because we met payroll first. That was always the highest priority. The first cash that came into King Construction in the worst years, even when the bank was closed by the FDIC, I met payroll.

When that bank was closed, it was, let me see, April 26, Friday afternoon at 3 o'clock. They posted a highway patrolman outside the door with a red tag on the front of it. I found out that they had not only closed up my account, but the accounts of many of my customers. I actually reached into my pocket because I literally had two pennies in my pocket to rub together--it's almost a joke around our family. We still met payroll. We found a way to do it even though I couldn't write a check because the bank was closed.

I thank a lot of the people that work for King Construction and the people that we have worked with and for throughout the years. I've been in the trenches with them. I'm the guy that if they're on an air conditioned cab in a machine, I'm down in the ditch with a shovel. I want to make that job go as good as it can.

I walked in my office before Christmas one year and I found that my secretary had decorated our Christmas tree in the entryway of the King Construction office with these gold decorations printed out like a Christmas tree--a baby Jesus, a snowflake, a star of Bethlehem. When I looked at that tree and I looked at the decorations, the gold emblems, on the front side was engraved the name of one of our employees, or their spouse, or one of their children. These were the people that I went to work with every day, our employees; but the tree was decorated with the names of all the people that were directly affected by those jobs being available.

We would never be a company that's looking at soon celebrating our 40th year in business if it weren't for people that had worked for us for a long time and been part of this family. When there is a death, we go to the funeral of a family member. When there's a baptism, we go to the baptism. When there's a wedding, we go to the wedding. These are people that are like family--actually, there is even occasionally a little connection of blood that goes on, but it's like family, it is family. I have great respect for the people that do labor every day. And I am a blue collar guy here and at home in Iowa.

But there are two viewpoints here. Another point I want to make, though, is that labor has a right to collectively bargain. They have a right to bargain as a bargaining group is another way to define that. Nobody has a right to intimidate others. Nobody has a right to be heavy-handed about it, but they do have a right to bargain, and I will always defend their right to bargain.

But one of the points that is a big problem for our budget, for example, is this: that the organized labor unions in this country strongly support and promote the Davis-Bacon Act. Now, Davis-Bacon is a law that was passed back in the early thirties by a couple of Republicans from New York. Now, they remind me that it was Republicans that passed that law. I would be the last guy to stand here and say that Republicans are always a hundred percent right, but they were wrong when they did that.

They wrote Davis-Bacon, this Federal law that requires that any construction project that has $2,000 or more Federal dollars in it shall be by prevailing wage. The definition of prevailing wage, then, is they go out and survey the pay scale and the benefits package that is normal and typical within that labor market. I can say with utter confidence that that scale is a union scale, not a prevailing wage, but a union scale. They're the people that negotiate this. The people that sit down on the boards and the panels do so. They're not measuring prevailing wage; they're simply measuring union scale and applying that to the Davis-Bacon wage scale.

The result is these projects, these Federal projects cost an average of 22 percent more. Now, I have records that go back for years. We do some Davis-Bacon wage scale projects and some are not, so we're flipping back and forth. We've got a pretty good set of records that we've accumulated over the years. In our records, someplace between 8 and 35 percent is the percentage of increase in the cost of a project where there is a federally imposed wage scale. Part of that time is they doesn't know what the wage scale is, and part of the time it is because they're imposing at higher wage than prevailing wage. Part of the reason for that gap is some projects are material intensive and other projects are labor intensive, so you get that gap between 8 and 35 percent. But a standard here is 22 percent--I often say 20--22 percent increase.

Now, think of that; think what this means. If this Congress were fiscally responsible and they looked at the unnecessary spending that is part of the prescription of the Davis-Bacon wage scale mandate, then we would see the cost of our Federal project--if we repealed Davis-Bacon, we'd see the cost of our Federal projects be reduced by 22 percent.

Now, what would that mean? If there are Federal dollars in a school, that means we could build five schools instead of four. You know there's Federal dollars in a lot of our roads. We could build five miles of roads instead of four. We could build five miles of interstate highway, for example, instead of four miles of interstate highway. We could build five bridges instead of four.

How many roads would have been built by now if we hadn't had the federally mandated Davis-Bacon wage scale put in place? How far would we be with our infrastructure? We're a long ways behind in our bridge reconstruction in particular, but also our highway construction. And every year that I've been in this Congress people come to me and they will say we have to raise the road use tax because we don't have enough money to build our roads.

Now, road use tax, that really should cause a person to think. That is a user's fee. We pay it in the gas that we buy. We expect that when that nozzle goes into our tank and when we squeeze the nozzle to buy the gas, we watch the dollars--and they go up really fast when you see gas that's over four bucks a gallon--we watch those dollars go up on the pump. But we also realize that between the State and the Federal Government a lot of us are paying 40-plus cents a gallon to build the road that we're wearing out with the car we're putting the gas in. That's a user's fee. But when I came here and started to break this down and ask the question: Of that one dollar's worth of gas tax/user fee that is a Federal piece of this--18.3 cents a gallon--of one dollar of that, how much of that actually goes into roads and bridges? I'll tell you, it adds up like this--then we reduce it a little bit on this number:

Three percent, 3 cents out of that dollar went for trails, for bike trails and automobile trails and that kind of thing--3 percent. There was at one time $16 million in one of our appropriation bills to clean graffiti off the retaining walls in New Jersey. I thought, can't they get their prisoners out there with a wire brush to do that? And 28 percent going for environmental and archaeological compliance studies and costs. Twenty-eight cents out of that dollar for environmental interests and archaeological interests, looking for arrowheads and endangered species. Can't somebody else pay for that rather than the people that are driving on these roads? When you add Davis-Bacon to that, another 22 percent.

So you have 3 percent for trails, you have 28 percent for archaeological and environmental compliance, you've got 20 to 22 percent for Davis-Bacon wage scale, and 17 percent for mass transit to buy people cheap Metro tickets in Washington, D.C., or subway tickets in New York, or the "el'' in Chicago, or, what shall I say, the cable cars in San Francisco, subsidized by people buying gas. Add that all up and you're going to find--if you're good at math and paying attention, Mr. Speaker--that number comes to about 67 or 68 cents out of the dollar that goes for something else other than roads and bridges.

Now, how can we justify raising a user fee on the gas tax, as we call it, rather than re-prioritizing that gas-tax-dollar pie, where you get a third of the money that's going to roads and bridges and two-thirds of the money that's going to something else? That needs to be fixed. I appreciate the gentleman that spoke earlier. If he would take a stand on that, perhaps we could find a bipartisan solution.

Another issue, though, is child labor. He made the argument that it was the unions that drove the child labor issue and now kids don't have to worry when they go to work. That's true, because there's no place for them to work. Hardly anywhere can young people work.

Mr. Speaker, I just ask you to think about, let me say, some years ago there was a time when you could pull into any gas station and some young lad would come running out there with a rag in his back pocket. He would fill your car up. He would wash your windshield, check your oil, check your tires, and collect your money and send you on your way. That doesn't happen anymore. There are few of those full-service stations left. One of the big reasons is child labor laws.

Today, child labor laws are written in such a way that a 17-year-old young person that is awaiting their 18th birthday can't get on the riding lawnmower and cut the grass around the gas station for pay because that's a violation of child labor laws. They can climb in a car at age 16 in my State and drive wherever they choose to go, but they can't mow the lawn in the gas station that they pull up into to buy their gas.

We saw this administration push child labor laws in trying to get it pushed into the agriculture sector. It was the Department of Labor working with the Department of Agriculture to write rules like, unless you're a son or a daughter of somebody that's got controlling interest in a farm--in other words, you can't be loaned out or, as we say in my country, farmed out to the neighbors or to your kid's aunt and uncle or grandparents to do work. They prohibited youth from participating in herding livestock in a confined area, from being more than 6 feet off the ground so they couldn't paint the under eaves on the machine shed, from having anything to do with livestock that inflicts pain, like ear tagging or tail docking or clipping eye teeth or dewclaws on puppies, for example. They prohibited them from being involved in that, but that same girl that's prohibited from being around when you ring the hog can have her ears pierced--or any other part for that matter--without any objection from the same people that are advocating this.

We have a nanny state that's run amok, Mr. Speaker. It's gone overboard with child labor laws and tried to push these child labor laws into agriculture. There was a major pushback because the family farm understood the value of work for our youth. They manage the safety best on those farms. They care the most about the people that are there. And the Federal Government would only interfere, and then that child would not have the experience of learning the work ethic by going to the neighbor's or aunt and uncle's or grandpa and grandma's.

So even though the labor unions have made, I think, a big contribution with regard to on-the-job safety--the reference to OSHA and the history of that was a good thing. The organization of labor unions to negotiate for better working conditions and wages and benefits package was a good thing. But there has to be some restraint on this. We can't be going backwards.

This statement about a fair wage, well, we should be thinking, what is "fair,'' Mr. Speaker? You can look up the definition of "fair'' in Black's Law, and you'll find a whole series of definitions for "fair.''

I say the only time you should use the word "fair'' when you're talking about law is when you're talking about the State fair or the county fair or the World's Fair, because otherwise, when you use the word "fair'' to talk about justice and equity, you finally come to this point that everybody has got a different view on what the word "fair'' means.

Anyone that's raised two or more children, Mr. Speaker, knows that there's no such thing as "fair.''

If you apply a rule to one child, the other child will say, "That's not fair.'' And if you apply the same rule to the other child, there will be a reason why the first one should be exempted. We can never agree on the word ``fair.'' We don't agree on what a fair wage is. That's why supply and demand needs to establish the wage, not somebody's idea of fairness.

The statement about a living wage--a living wage. Well, a living wage for someone in New York City is different from a living wage for someone that lives, let's say, in a low-cost rural area that might be in the Midwest, for example. These definitions of fair wage and living wage are all ways to lever some kind of Federal imposition in that distorts the law of supply and demand.

So that takes me around to this concluding part, Mr. Speaker, which is that the law of supply and demand has caused people to come into the United States illegally and take jobs for a cheaper price than allows for them to live in this society. The result of that is that the cost for people who are in this country illegally--just for the welfare parts that they access--is right at $55 billion. If they are legalized in the form that is advocated on the other end of the rotunda in here, Democrats and Republicans, in other words, their comprehensive immigration reform and all the other adjectives they use to avoid using the word "amnesty,'' the cost goes from $55 billion a year to $75 billion a year. If you track this group of people--we're talking about 11.2 million people. If you track them for a lifetime, the cost of the welfare benefits becomes $2.5 trillion.

So, think, Mr. Speaker, this Congress has passed ObamaCare. This is right at near the anniversary of that. Today we voted to repeal it within the, I'll call it, the Ryan budget. That's about $2.5 trillion as it extrapolates itself out on the budget scale. On top of that, ObamaCare dropped $2.5 trillion of debt on the American public. If comprehensive immigration reform, slash, amnesty passes this Congress, that drops another $2.5 trillion of debt on the American people.

What we need is a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution, and we need that passed out of the House and out of the Senate with a cap at 18 percent of GDP and a supermajority required in order to raise taxes or to break the debt ceiling that we have, to increase the debt ceiling.

If we do that, if we put a balanced budget amendment out here on the floor of the House and the Senate and if it passes, I'll be ready to look at increasing the debt ceiling for the President. If that doesn't happen, I don't see a reason to raise the debt ceiling. Let's stare him down on that until somebody gives in.

We need to get this spending under control. Myopic policies and fiscally irresponsible policies are not the way to go. ObamaCare needs to be repealed. We need to restore the rule of law in this country. We've got to shrink down the welfare package that's out here. There are 80 different means-tested welfare programs in the United States--just 2 1/2 trillion for the illegal component of this and a whole lot more if we don't get these entitlements under control.

Mr. Speaker, the solutions are here. They're on this side of the aisle. They're actually in the platform, and I endorse many of them. I appreciate your attention, and I yield back the balance of my time.


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