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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I thank my good friend, the gentleman from Georgia, for yielding the customary 30 minutes to me. I rise obviously in opposition to the rule for consideration of H.R. 273, to eliminate the 2013 statutory pay adjustment for Federal employees.

I just heard my colleague from Georgia say that this is a good rule; but I've also heard him say what I agree with very frequently, and that is that this body should proceed toward regular order, allow the committee process to go forward in a meaningful way, to have hearings, and to let the will of the body be worked here in the people's House. I've also heard him talk about closed rules; and it's for that reason that I believe that this process is not a good process because it is a closed rule, and this couldn't, in that sense, be good. There were no hearings.

He talks about this one week, one bill. Why this week for Federal employees? Last night, I talked with six members of the American Federation of Government Employees, some of them older, some of them younger, and all of them agonizing, as are Federal employees around the country.

Let me get to the point. The Republicans have decided that they want to continue in the same shortsighted and counterproductive campaign against Federal employees that we saw in the last Congress. When they introduced this very same bill in the 112th Congress, it passed the House and then went nowhere and accomplished absolutely nothing. I'm quite certain--and I'll bet--that it will face the same fate this time around.

Just last week, the Rules Committee considered H.R. 444, the Require a PLAN Act, which should have been called the ``Republicans Have No Plan Act.'' Instead of offering real solutions to the challenges facing our Nation, my Republican colleagues continue to introduce do-nothing legislation that will do nothing to help the American people.

Obviously, all of us know that we face $85 billion in sequestration cuts in a matter of weeks. These cuts were intended to be a fail-safe. They were supposed to be so unpalatable, so horrible for everyone, that Congress would never allow them to go into effect. Yet, instead of making sure that these massive cuts don't threaten the progress that we've made, my friends on the other side would rather play politics at the expense of the middle class and the working poor, underscoring the working poor.

As the President put it in his State of the Union address: ``Arbitrary deficit reduction is not an economic plan.''

Deficit reduction is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. It is just one tool that will help us get our country back on the right track. You can't build a house with just a saw. Deficit reduction needs to be part of a comprehensive economic plan, one that will stimulate growth and create jobs.

A serious economic plan is one that does not take potshots at our economy and our Nation's full faith and credit for political purposes. We must, in this people's House, move beyond politics and work to avoid a dangerous backslide in our Nation's economic recovery.

For the life of me, I can't even begin to understand why House Republicans continue to pick on Federal employees. It's as if the people that keep the Capitol clean, the police officers that keep us safe, the countless people that work right here on this Capitol complex do not deserve this paltry raise and are to be picked on.

My AFGE friends were saying to me last night that Federal employees have already contributed $103 billion towards deficit reduction. Furthermore, Federal employees and retirees have contributed $15 billion in savings over 10 years through an increased pension contribution. A 2-year Federal pay freeze has been in effect since 2011 and will produce an additional $60 billion in savings. The reduction and delay of a 2013 pay increase included in the current continuing resolution will yield $28 billion in savings.

At what point does enough, as my friend from Virginia said, become enough? What's more and puzzles me--and I asked the question of the scrivener of this bill last evening--is: Why aren't Federal contractors, who make twice as much as Federal employees, included in this pay freeze? He gave me some political fogging. I don't know what it was and don't care to even bother to try to remember.

During the debate over the fiscal cliff, Republicans said that we shouldn't ask corporations and the wealthiest in our society to pay their fair share. The reason that was put--this is a while back during the debate on the fiscal cliff--was that if we tax the wealthy, they won't work as hard if they're taking home less money. What about Federal employees? Why is it that that logic does not apply here? It's incomprehensible that we find ourselves in this position.

Mr. Speaker, if the Federal Government is not paying realistic salaries, then we can't expect to be able to provide for people to allow for themselves and their families to have a decent living.

Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that the Federal workforce is smaller now than it was in 1988, a historic low compared to the size of the national population. There are fewer Federal workers now than at any time during President Reagan's administration. Something has got to give.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I would advise the gentleman that I was a businessperson, too, and there is a distinction between private businesses and civil servants of the Federal Government.

I'm pleased at this time to yield 3 minutes to the distinguished gentleman on the Rules Committee and my good friend from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern).


Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, before yielding, I would ask my good friend from Georgia a question: If we are leaving here, as I suspect we will tomorrow for a week, why don't we just stay here and get this done rather than go on vacation or waycation or whatever we do?

Mr. WOODALL. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. I yield to the gentleman from Georgia.

Mr. WOODALL. I actually asked that question--or a version of it--of the distinguished gentleman from Maryland, the minority whip, last night.

Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. He doesn't control the House, Mr. Woodall.

Mr. WOODALL. If the gentleman would continue to yield.

Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. I continue to yield.

Mr. WOODALL. I asked, What would it have taken to get that Joint Select Committee to succeed? Because that's why we're here in sequestration; that's why we're dealing with these things. He said he did not know what more we could have done to find agreement then.

So I say to the gentleman that those same challenges the minority whip observed last night that were preventing agreement then are those same challenges that are preventing us, whether we work until midnight tonight or not, from solving them today, though I would be happy to stay with the gentleman just as long as there is work to be done here in this House.

I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. In reclaiming my time, one thing is absolutely certain: the majority whip controls the floor, and the Speaker controls the House, and if they chose for us to stay here, we could stay here.

With that, I am pleased to yield 5 minutes to my very good friend, the distinguished gentlewoman from New York, who is my ranking member on the Rules Committee, Ms. Slaughter.


Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance my time.

I really like and have great affection for my friend from Georgia, and I understand exactly what he just did with reference to the President's commission as appointed by Senator Simpson and Erskine Bowles, but the fount of wisdom with reference to what is required in order for this Nation to right its ship doesn't emanate from just any one commission. And while this particular proposal may be listed as an idea from the Simpson-Bowles Commission, I would urge my friend from Georgia to read the whole thing, which does contemplate shared sacrifice. And that's what I tried to get across to my colleagues here in this institution.

As a person that lived as a child during the Second World War, I saw what sacrifice meant, and I saw the people that did the sacrificing. And they did it together, differently than us today. And that's why I think it's wrong to cherry-pick and then use a sledgehammer against Federal employees for something that is not likely to become the law of the land. It's a waste of time.

The only good thing that I have to say about the bill before us today is that it has zero chance of becoming law. I anxiously wait for my friends on the other side, particularly the leadership, to actually start considering legislation that will help, not hurt, the American people.

Mr. Speaker, if we defeat the previous question, I will offer an amendment which would allow the House to vote on replacing the entire sequester for 2013 with savings from specific policies that reflect a balanced approach to reducing our national debt.

There are only 6 legislative days left until the sequester hits. Now is the time to act. Smart government is not about sequesters; it's about solutions. And it's time to work together for the American people.

Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to insert the text of my amendment in the Record along with extraneous material immediately prior to the vote on the previous question.


Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' and defeat the previous question.

I urge a ``no'' vote on the rule, and I yield back the balance of my time with the final thought that we don't have that much time to waste, and we are wasting the American people's time.


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