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Making Life Work for American Families

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mrs. ROBY. Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to be on the floor tonight for the next few minutes, and I hopefully will have some other colleagues joining me here in a few minutes. Tonight is about making life work for American families.

What are we doing on behalf of the American people here in the House of Representatives to make life a little bit easier for working families, working moms and dads? And let me just say that there are things across the board, whether it's health care issues, energy, reducing the deficit and the debt for Margaret and George, my two kids, and future generations, all of those things add up and matter.

I want to talk for just a few minutes about one proposal that I have in front of the House of Representatives that's going to come up for a vote here after we return from our district workweek. But before I do that, I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, tonight, that we're going to do something a little bit different in an effort to engage individuals in their interest about making life work for American families.

I just want to say, Mr. Speaker, that if someone wants to know more about what we're talking about tonight, the hash tag on Twitter is ``makinglifework.'' We want to hear from the people that we represent, Mr. Speaker, throughout our time on the floor tonight. So I would just say to you again, Mr. Speaker, that any individual that would like to know more about what we're talking about or would like to engage in a conversation, it's ``#makinglifework.''

Before I introduce my colleagues or get engaged in this conversation, I want to very briefly talk about the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013, which is a bill designed to do just what we're talking about tonight, and that's make life work, make life a little bit easier for working moms and dads.

I'm a working mom, and my husband and I, every week, sit down and figure out what the plan is. We have an almost 8-year-old and a 4-year-old, and we certainly understand the pulls on the American family in balancing the workweek and our home life and supporting our children.

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of families out there right now that would like choice in the workplace, hourly-wage employees that would like the choice in the private sector to exercise compensatory time--that's paid time off in lieu of cash wages. Right now, under current law, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, public employers can offer to their employees that option. In 1985, the Fair Labor Standards Act was amended to allow that. Private sector employees can't.

So, again, as a working mom who understands the pulls on family--maybe that T-ball game at 4 o'clock on a Thursday afternoon or the PTA meeting that's at 9 o'clock in the morning when my daughter's class is the one leading the charge on the entertainment for the PTA meeting--if I'm an hourly-wage employee and I want to exchange paid overtime for paid time off, I cannot legally, under the law, do that with my employer.

This amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act allows for the private sector to do what the public sector is already doing. Now, some of the opponents of this bill say that the big bad employer would use this to coerce employees into taking comp time rather than overtime pay. That is unlawful. The same protections that are in place currently under the Fair Labor Standards Act are the same protections that exist under our amendment preventing intimidation, coercion, and discrimination by the employer on the employee. And the most important thing about this bill is that it is voluntary. The employee is the only person who can opt to exercise this option if the employer chooses to offer it.

We know that this is not necessarily an option in every line of work. For example, if there's a manufacturer with 10 employees who actually make a product, if you pull one person off the line, they can't make the product, so it may not be a fit. But for those that want to, this amendment allows for that individual to say to their employer: I would like to enter into a voluntary written agreement with you to use compensatory time, to bank up to 160 hours within a 12-month period of compensatory time because time is more valuable than money to me.

And the greatest protection in this bill is if, in fact, that employee determines at any time that this isn't working, I'm not using my compensatory time or I can't find a time that works with my employer that fits, the time that I want to take off, that employee, Mr. Speaker, that employee can say: I want to cash out my compensatory bank time. So let's say they have 60 hours. They can cash out, and within 30 days their employer has to pay them time-and-a-half overtime for that banked accrual of comp time.

This bill makes sense. This bill is about helping working families. This bill is about allowing that mom and dad that are balancing T-ball games and PTA meetings as well as caring for their elderly parents. This bill is about getting military families ready to have one spouse deploy, to have the flexibility to do what they need to do. This is one example about how we are making life work for American families.

This bill doesn't solve our debt or deficit problem. I'm the first to admit that. But what this bill does is it eases some of the hardships on our moms and dads in the workforce, and I'm really thrilled to be the current author of this bill. It has a long history. I'm excited about taking it to the floor in 2 weeks.

Again, Mr. Speaker, for those who want to know more about tonight's discussion, the hash tag is #makinglifework. We want to hear from all Americans that are affected by any of these issues and look forward to addressing those throughout tonight's hour.

I want to let you know, joining me today I have the gentlelady from Washington, Jaime Herrera Beutler, as well as the gentleman from Colorado, Cory Gardner, and at this point, to my colleagues, I'd like to open this up.

Cory, I know that you currently serve on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and I know you have a couple of topics that you want to talk about, but let's talk about making life work for American families when it comes to energy.

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Mrs. ROBY. Right. I can tell you as the mom of two kids as well, every week when I get on a plane to come back to Washington, there is a lot of planning that goes into it. I put the gas in my car; I go to the grocery store; and when it comes to energy, I can watch energy prices affect the cost of food.

One of the things that I do every week just to ease some of the juggle in our lives is I try on the weekends to cook a few things. I love to cook, and I try to make life a little bit easier by having a few things in the refrigerator already made that I do over the weekend. So usually my grocery store visit is on Saturday and Sunday. I tell folks that sometimes it can amount to a town hall. You get in the produce section and you have great conversations with your constituents.

But I can see what the gentleman from Colorado is saying as the price of milk goes up. If gas prices are increasing, then the cost of food is affected.

I can tell you, and your wife would say the same, thanks for helping us in your role on Energy and Commerce.

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Mrs. ROBY. Sure. And I can reiterate all of the points that the gentlelady from Washington makes. And you're right. These are all things that contribute to making life work for American families.

I just want to say, Mr. Speaker, as we're having this conversation, I'm getting information from folks that want to make life work. And, Mr. Speaker, I want to remind all of us in this room that we remain committed to cutting spending and reducing the deficit and getting our debt under control. This conversation really all encompasses just that.

Margaret and George and all of the families represented in this room tonight, they're the ones that we want to get this under control for because, Mr. Speaker, we want this country to be great for them as it has been for all of us.

But, at the same time, there are things that fall under Federal jurisdiction that we can be doing to ease the burden on American working moms and dads; and that's the things that we're talking about tonight, the Working Family and Flexibility Act of 2013, energy solutions that are out there.

We're going to talk about health care and tax reform. We're joined by Mr. Young from Indiana. Thank you for coming. Please join the conversation.

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Mrs. ROBY. I want to say to both gentlemen, what we're talking about tonight is kitchen table stuff. Americans all across this country sit down across the table from their loved one and they balance their budgets. Why do we hold the Federal Government to any standard other than that?

We're addicted to spending. We are on an unsustainable path for the next generation. Tax reform, energy, and removing burdens on the working families are all such important concepts to making life work for American families.

We're joined by another colleague. I just want to introduce our newly elected Member of the House of Representatives joining us in the 113th Congress, Mrs. Ann Wagner, the gentlelady from Missouri. Please join us in this conversation and offer your perspective.

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Mrs. ROBY. That's great. I serve on the Education and Workforce Committee. Of course, that bill was reported out, as well as the Working Families Flexibility Act. Again, kitchen table stuff. We've got to balance our budget. Everybody here tonight voted in favor of a budget that would balance in 10 years. We understand that that's the key.

We're about to enter into a district work week, and I'd love for the gentlelady from Washington to speak on this because you always have great examples of this, too, but we're all about to get on the plane or get in our cars and go home for the week. And we're going to be with our small business owners and with our employees. Quite frankly, the employers, yes, they provide the jobs. The employees, we need to spend a little bit more time talking about those moms and dads sitting at the table, making it work. And they are the ones who are suffering at the hand of these duplicative programs that are sucking up precious taxpayer dollars that--at the end of the day we can be doing a much more efficient job of helping American families and making life work.

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Mrs. ROBY. Let's talk about one other thing, and I'm sorry to open another door, but I think it's important because of what you heard on airplanes today, about the sequester and what's going on in defense spending. Can we talk just a minute about our military families?

You're talking about making life work. The people that we have a direct charge to make life work for are those who sacrifice on behalf of all of our freedoms and their families--our military men and women.

I'm going to circle back to the bill, the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013. Think about that military mom or dad that's getting ready to deploy and they're an hourly wage employee, and they don't have, under the current law, the option to exercise compensatory time. Yet their spouse is about to leave for a 1-year deployment to Afghanistan, and they've got to get their house in order. They've got to have flexibility to handle life outside of their job, whether it's their children or their aging parents, while their spouse is deployed.

Let's talk about making sure that those men and women, as they're deployed, have everything that they need to accomplish the mission that we've given them. And yet through the sequester we know that we are going to have a smaller force. And our commanders say not less capable but we're going to have to make some really tough decisions about where we are in the world and what we can do with our capabilities.

And I'll just tell you, all you have to do is go to the military installation closest to your home and look into the eyes of that spouse whose family member is currently deployed in harm's way, and it will change our outlook, as it should.

Making life work for military families, making life work for Margaret and George, my kids, and yours, that's what we're talking about tonight.

Mr. Speaker, I want to just remind that we are, throughout this discussion, looking on Twitter, #makinglifework, taking input, Mr. Speaker, from our constituents as we have this conversation.

I yield to the gentleman from Indiana.

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Mrs. ROBY. All you have to do is pull out your copy of the Constitution, and what does it say? Our charge as Members of Congress is to provide for a strong national defense. If we're not taking care of those men and women in uniform who have fought and died for the very freedoms that allow for us to stand in this room today and talk about making life work, if we don't have enough respect for that, to do our job in Congress and set priorities when it comes to wasteful spending on behalf of them, then we all need to take a long, hard look at ourselves in the mirror.

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Mrs. ROBY. To the gentleman from Indiana, we appreciate the hard work that you're doing on the Ways and Means Committee. All of us here look forward to helping making life work for American families through a simpler, flatter, fairer Tax Code that does just that.

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Mrs. ROBY. I just want to remind you, Mr. Speaker, that tonight we are grateful to be on the floor talking about making life work. Mr. Speaker, one of the ways that we're doing that tonight is engaging our constituents through #makinglifework. We want to hear, as we continue through this discussion, from the people from Missouri's Second District or Alabama's Second District or the other districts represented in this room, Mr. Speaker. We want to hear from those folks as we continue this conversation tonight about how to make life work on behalf of Americans.

As I've talked about on several occasions tonight, the Working Families Flexibility Act, which will be on the floor for a vote in 2 weeks, is about a voluntary agreement between an employer and an employee, only at the option of the employee, in the private sector--which is currently not legal, and the private sector removing this regulation so that employee has the opportunity to say, you know what, time is more precious than money. As a working mother with two small kids, I get that. I get that and I can relate to that.

This bill is about allowing in the private sector that employer and that employee to come to an agreement and that employee exercising their right to say I'd rather have comp time, paid time off, than overtime payments and cash payments.

So we're talking about not just through tax reform or energy or health care--all of these things that have been discussed tonight--we're talking about how do we make life just a little bit easier for hardworking tax-paying Americans? They sit around their kitchen tables, balance their budgets, live within their means, and the Federal Government, quite frankly, doesn't do that, and we should be held to that same standard.

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Mrs. ROBY. My farmers in Alabama are very, very familiar with all those regulations. We've worked hard through the Committee on Agriculture to do all that we can to remove that heavy hand of the Federal Government. Our farmers just want to farm.

Let me tell you, when we talk about national security, the day that our farmers in the United States of America can't feed, not just the world, but can't feed America, do you want to talk about a national security interest? Those are great examples of how we can remove those regulatory burdens.

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Mrs. ROBY. We've sat on this floor for the past couple of years, and glad to have our new colleague join us tonight, but we've all given examples, and one of my favorite examples, although it's not funny, it's real, is the owner of a construction company that came to one of my NFIB roundtable discussions back in my district during a district workweek. Let me just give you this as an example. He said, The regulator drives by my job site and there was a ladder propped up against the eave. Let's say the guy stood to make an $800 profit off of this construction job. His workers have been going up and down the ladder all day safely. And the regulator on his way home from his job slows down, because it happened to be on his street, and he says, That ladder does not meet regulation. This guy gets slapped with like an $8,000 fine on a job that he only stood to make an $800 profit on. That is not making life work.

This administration and our colleagues in the Senate have got to wake up to what we're doing strangling small businesses. But, again, it's not just about the employer. I think we've got to remember and remind ourselves that it's not just about the employer that creates the jobs. We get that and we applaud that. We want to make it as easy for people to create jobs as we can in this country because that's innovation and that's what this country is about, but it's also about that hardworking employee. And we've got to remember that clearing this regulatory environment, it helps that American family, it helps that American family when they're sitting around their dinner table and they're trying to make life work.

Again, real quick, we've got a few more minutes, I just want to remind, Mr. Speaker, tonight, we are hoping to receive input from our constituents at #makinglifework. Throughout our conversation tonight we've been hearing from folks that have been reminding us of issues that are important to them. And I think this is, Mr. Speaker, a very unique opportunity to have this conversation.

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Mrs. ROBY. One of the things we haven't really spent time on--and the gentlelady from Washington wants to talk about--is health care and things that we are doing to make sure that American families have the access. I think we can all agree that we want health care to be more affordable and more accessible by all Americans, but as we move closer and closer to the full implementation of ObamaCare in 2014, we're finding that that doesn't work.

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