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Public Statements

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

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank my dear friend from Florida for the leadership on the issue, the number of Members who have already spoken, and my good friend on the Rules Committee who is the manager of this particular rule and, in essence, bringing this bill to the floor of the House, and that is what you hear the discourse about. Many times this discourse, this debate becomes confusing because we are trying to compare apples and oranges. And so let me first own up to the fact that a congressional pay freeze is already in place. Our salaries have been frozen. When it expires, we'll rise to the occasion and freeze it again. We're elected by the people, and those decisions can be made on behalf of the people.

We're not talking about congressional salaries today. They're in place. They exist. What we're talking about is the ICE officer that I'm meeting with in the Rayburn Room who works everyday to protect this country and has seen that, because of the $103 billion that Federal employees have already given to reduce the deficit, necessities of work are being challenged. Customs and Border Protection, DEA officers, FBI, Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control physicians, research at NIH and those scientists, all of those persons are working for the greater good--those who had to address the West Nile virus, FEMA employees who are right now on the ground with Hurricane Sandy. I have no question that there are private sector employees that are addressing this question, but they've gotten a 4.7 percent raise.

Let me tell you what the issue is. Let's stop fooling around and address the question of sequester. Protect those who need a social safety net and Social Security and Medicare. Realize that if you dice and cut and slash under the sequester, that will be the issue. None of these amendments were allowed in.

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Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the gentleman.

Last night at the Rules Committee, there were amendments to bring forward the right way of addressing the question, and they indicated that was not germane. I know these words are confusing, but that could have been a waiver. We all know what that means. It doesn't match, it doesn't fit, but we waive you in. That could have been debated on the floor of the House.

My amendment said that we should take a pause. I simply said this bill shouldn't be brought up. I struck the entire language of the bill so that we could get to the point of providing a debate on the sequester to make sure that the American people's voices are heard. They don't want an across-the-board cut when you begin to cut the resources that they need. But we can do better.

And let me just say to you, in Texas, there are 251,000 Federal employees; California, over 400,000. These are not folks inside the beltway. They're the ones that are in the Nation's national forests, on the border, in hospitals, dealing with drug cartels.

I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that this is not what we should be doing today. This is unfair to our Federal workers, and I won't stand for it.

Vote against the rule and the bill.

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Mr. Speaker, I rise to explain my amendment #5 to H.R. 273, ``to eliminate the 2013 statutory pay adjustment for federal employees and to reject this frontal assault on federal employees.''

My amendment would have struck the entire text of this bill. Why? Because the premise underlying the bill, to freeze federal salaries, is flawed.

And let me be clear: this bill does not add a dime to deficit reduction efforts. Yet my friends on the other side insist on this game of charades, pretending to be concerned with deficit reduction, but the folly of it all is that it's only a not-so-well-disguised game of political one-up man ship.

If you are really looking to cut government spending you should have made the Amendment submitted by my colleague, Mr. Van Hollen of Maryland in-order. Mr. Van Hollen's amendment was not perfect as it cut subsidies for large oil companies, among other things; but it represents a balanced approach to deficit reduction.

And as we look for ways to address our fiscal issues we cannot continue to use the salaries and retirement options of federal employees as our Congressional Savings and Loans.

Federal employees have contributed more than their fair share to addressing this problem. We need creative and long term solutions with a heavy emphasis on job growth.

H.R. 273 continues to freeze the salaries of federal employees who are vital to implementing the very laws and regulations that are generated by Congress and federal agencies.

As the Ranking Member on Homeland Security Committee, Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, I can attest that it is in our national security interest to have the ability to recruit and retain the best and the brightest employees to keep our borders safe from harm.

As a Representative from Texas, I can further attest that is again in our nation's best interest to have qualified high skilled professionals reviewing drilling applications for off shore well sites.

Federal employees help to ensure that the air we breathe, the airways that we travel upon, and the food we eat are safe.

Most Americans encounter their first federal employee when they meet their postal carrier. Men and women who faithfully deliver the mail: rain or shine.

After 911 with our need to improve airline security, we turned to federal employees ..... the very employees who are amongst the first to react when there is an attack on our soil.

Federal employees operate in every state cross our nation with only 15% of all federal employees working in Washington D.C, continuing to freeze their compensation is not a long term solution to our fiscal problems.

Our long term fiscal problems will not be solved by cutting Social Security, Medicaid, or Medicare.

Our problems will not be solved by freezing the pay and benefits of federal employees.

Our problems will not be solved on the backs of seniors, low and middle income Americans, or the disabled. Our problems can be solved by putting forth legislation that will put hardworking Americans back to work, advance training for high skilled and high wage jobs. By putting forth legislation that inspirers innovation, and through addressing the long term needs of all Americans rather than a few.

Most federal employees are not living the lifestyles of the rich and famous. The majority of Federal employees are middle class Americans. Over 60 percent of all federal employees make less than $75,000 a year.

According to the Federal Salary Council (FSC) annual report federal employees are paid 34.6 percent less in salary than their private--sector counterparts.

There are those who have cited a study by the Congressional Budget Office which found that federal workers on average earned slightly more than private-sector workers; however, that study did not take into account the level of job responsibility, specialized training, or length of tenure of each employee. Which we all know should be taken into account.

There are those who claim that the federal government is too large. In reality, the federal government is smaller today that it was in 1968.

The IRS has 20,000 fewer employees than they did in 1995, yet are required to process 236 million more complicated tax returns.

The Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid has 7 percent fewer employees serving 64 percent more enrollees.

Most growth in the number of federal workers has been in Homeland Security and Defense as a result of 9/11.

From 2001 to 2010, employment in non-security federal agencies as a percent of population actually fell by 4 percent.

Even though overall there are less federal government employees serving each American today than there were 30 years ago. They have still contributed $103 billion worth of budget savings since the beginning of 2011.

$60 billion from a federal pay freeze in 2011 and 2012.

$15 billion from increased retirement contributions for newly-hired federal employees. As a result new hires will not receive 2.3% less compensation than their federal counterparts.

$28 billion from a pay increase of .5 percent which is well below the Cost of Living Adjustment of 1.7 percent.

Additional funds will also be generated as a result of a mandatory reduction in the Department of Defense civilian work force.

Federal Employees have given enough.

They have not seen a cost of living adjustment in going on 3 years. There appears to be a growing attitude that this freeze should go on indefinitely.

The freeze was originally enacted to cover only 2011 and 2012; however, it was extended through late March as part of a temporary budget measure. Again, this was supposed to be a temporary solution not a permanent cure.

We must do more to recruit and retain the best and brightest.

We must do more to inspire innovation and job growth.

We must do more to protect middle income Americans, like federal employees.

The way to address our long-term fiscal problems is not be using federal employees as a Congressional Savings and Loans.

Again, it is not through cuts to Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare. It is by advancing creative long-term solutions that encourages jobs growth and innovation that will allow us to fix our current fiscal issues.

FAST FACTS

H.R. 273, freezes a 0.5% statutory pay adjustment slated to go into effect in March. It also extends the Congressional pay freeze through the end of the year.

My amendment nullifies the entire bill.

According to the Office of Management and Budget the federal workforce is virtually as small today as it has ever been in the modern era.

In 1953, the federal government employed one worker for every 78 residents. In 2009, one worker was employed for every 147 residents.

In the IRS today, there are 20,000 fewer employees than there were in 1995, processing 236 million more complicated tax returns. And, in the Department of Health and Human Services Medicare and Medicaid staff, there are 7 percent fewer employees serving 64 percent more enrollees.

Most growth in the number of federal workers has been in Homeland Security and Defense as a result of 9/11. From 2001 to 2010, employment in non-security federal agencies as a percent of population actually fell by 4 percent.

Only 15 percent of federal employees work in the Washington, DC, metro area. Continuing to freeze the pay of federal employees so they are not in keeping with the cost of living will have Cutting federal a negative impact on the economy of every state.

Currently there are 281,571 federal employees working in my homes state of Texas. In California, there are over 350,000 federal employees. There are hundreds of thousands of hardworking Americans who are going to be impacted by this continued pay freeze across the U.S.

Over 93 percent of federal employee jobs are non-clerical positions.

The federal workforce is a highly-educated and skilled workforce, including doctors, attorneys, scientists, IT specialists, CPAs, engineers, and other highly trained experts in virtually every discipline.

Nearly 50 percent of federal employees have a bachelor's or higher degree.

About 21 percent of federal employees have professional degree or doctorate versus compared to only 9 percent in the private sector.

The federal workforce is the most highly-educated in the nation, with professionals in virtually every discipline.

If we want to continue to recruit and retain the best and the brightest in the federal government we can not continue to use their wages and benefits as a Congressional Savings and Loans. Provide services that are vital to our daily lives.

I do not believe that Americans wish to sacrifice vital services that impact the health, safety and well-being of their families because the federal government failed to invest in its most important asset ..... human capitol.

The federal workforce has declined, on a per-capita basis, from one employee for every 78 U.S. residents in 1953 to one employee for every 147 residents in 2009.

About 85 percent of federal employees work in other cities and towns across the nation.

Federal employees have contributed $60 billion over 10 years toward deficit reduction through a two-year pay freeze, and another $15 billion in pension contribution increases.

Federal workforce cuts will hurt American families through fewer food inspections, decreased monitoring of air and water, and fewer people protecting consumers in the financial markets, just to name a few.

Continuing attempts to freeze federal employee pay, cut retirement benefits, and reduce the federal workforce will more than likely result in a workforce that is not as productive, not as efficient, and not as competent.

Because these types of measures make it even more difficult to attract and retain highly skilled and qualified federal employees. We must consider the long-term impact of short-sighted decision making.

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