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Citizen Empowerment Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, I'm going to only speak once, even though there's seven bills. Time is short. We have just a few days left in the legislature until we shut down the government if we don't act. We passed three of the appropriations bills. My understanding is that the one we've had under consideration is not going to be brought to final passage. I may be incorrect in that, but that's the understanding. At least there's some talk about that.

This Congress has been the worst Congress for Federal employees that I have ever served in. The gentleman who spoke before me says he ran a business. If you treated your employees as we're treating our employees, they would have all quit. They would have all walked out. They would talk about the epithets that are used and that ``bureaucrats'' spit out as a pejorative term to the people who make this government run.

I don't know whether the gentleman read this in the paper today, but two of our largest financial institutions were fined very heavily for misconduct. Do people do things wrong? They do. They do them wrong in the private sector. They do them wrong from time to time in the public sector. Should we be concerned about that? We should be. Should we excise that kind of behavior from private and public sectors? Absolutely.

But I will tell you that these bills--and some of them are okay; they're somewhat redundant. The bill the gentleman speaks of--I just got on the floor when the gentleman was speaking so I don't know exactly what the circumstances are in terms of his being, obviously, from his perspective, threatened by the fact that somebody was going to record him. I understand his concern about that. Frankly, if they'd called me and done that, I would have said, very frankly, I'm going to hang up, and I'll talk to you later with my lawyer, and you're welcome to meet with me. I'm a lawyer so I would have advised him to do that.

That does not explain the torrent of antigovernment workers that we have seen from this Congress and, frankly, to some degree, from the last Congress. They can't strike. And because they have to support their families, they can't walk out. They don't have many tools. They have us, of course, who represent many of them, to stand up for their rights. But much more importantly, for respect from their employer, which they're not getting.

I would tell my friend that he can come with me. I was down at Pax River, a big naval base, talking about the 20 percent cut that we've asked people to take. They perceive it's because of our dysfunction and because we can't get our job done here, not because of anything they did wrong, not because of a lack of performance.

And I will tell my friend, Mr. Kelly, that an awful lot of my folks are saying, We want to be at work. We've got guys at the point of the spear relying on it, and we're not able to work on Fridays. But they're still fighting on Fridays. They're still at risk on Fridays.

And so when they see these bills, I tell my friend, it's a ``gotcha'' reaction they have. We'll get 'em. You didn't like being recorded, so your response is to do what you didn't like to them. Now my response, if I were them, is to say, Sorry, Mr. Kelly, I can't talk to you. If you're going to record me, I'm not going to talk to you. We'll put it down on paper, we'll do whatever. As you were concerned about that effort, understand their concern as well.

As I said, out of eight of these bills, four of them aren't too bad. Three of them, obviously, go to undermining due process. The gentleman talks about being concerned. One of the bills says: no due process. You're fired because I think you did something wrong. Not because I proved you did something wrong, not because maybe you did do something wrong. But because I think you did something wrong, you're off--and you're off with no pay.

Maybe the gentleman is asking Mr. Issa whether in fact that's one of the bills, but I assure him it is.

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Mr. HOYER. Mr. Speaker, I would suggest we're the employer, we're the board of directors. And I think, frankly, in the IRS case, we haven't proved any wrong yet. There's been a lot of assertions but not much proof. We shouldn't go head-over-heels denigrating those folks on whom we rely to carry out the very policies we adopt.

Do we need oversight? Of course. Do we need honesty in performance of public duties? Absolutely. But we also need respect and consideration shown for those who work for America--the best civil service in the world. It's the most competent, best-educated civil service in the world, and we treat them as second-rate citizens. We ought not to do that.

We ought to reject this bill and a number of others of these bills. Let us think of our Federal employees. Because if we don't, we won't have the kind of government that America deserves and wants.

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Mr. ISSA. I yield myself 10 seconds simply to say, you know, if two people take the Fifth when asked about their official conduct and there isn't a scandal, I'd be surprised to find that the gentleman from Maryland would find a scandal no matter what we find there.

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Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman.

Her lawyer, or the lawyers, because there was a criminal investigation underway, did what lawyers do in an abundance of caution. That, by the way, is provided for in the Constitution of the United States--I know the gentleman's read it. I've read it as well. So they were availing themselves of their constitutional right.

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