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

Floor Speech

By:  Rob Woodall
Date: Feb. 14, 2013
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WOODALL. I'd like to say to my friend that I endorse, Madam Speaker, his request to do away with stale political gamesmanship. I would put in the stale political gamesmanship category making a point of order against an unfunded mandate in the bill and then failing to make any indication that you actually believe there's an unfunded mandate in the bill, but simply using this time to talk about an issue that we have already litigated in a multihour hearing last night.

That said, I know, Madam Speaker, the gentleman's heart is felt in this issue. I would say to the gentleman that, while there was only one objection in this body, I make that objection out of great affection for the gentleman because, as I read the underlying bill, I see absolutely no way to divide this legislation into the components that the gentleman would like to debate.

The gentleman would like to debate a Member pay freeze. The gentleman would like to debate a Federal employee pay freeze.


Mr. WOODALL. I thank the gentleman. In fact, I thought that's where the gentleman's heart lay.

As the gentleman knows, the reason the Bera-Connolly amendment is not on the floor today, among others, is that it is nongermane to this legislation. We cannot subdivide this piece of legislation to include nongermane components, which, again, I know the gentleman wants to debate those components. And, Madam Speaker, when the House schedules those bills, I look forward to having that debate, too; it's just not in this bill.

One of the great pleasures I've had in this body, Madam Speaker, has been being a part of a majority that is bringing bills that are simple to read and simple to understand. This is a front-and-back bill. I happen to have mine on two pages because I like to flip, but if I had been more conservative with my printer, it would have been a front-and-back page here, Madam Speaker.

What we talked about in the Rules Committee all last night--and it would have created more points of order for germaneness issues and others--was adding amendment after amendment after amendment that did not affect this language, but instead created brand-new debates about brand-new issues.

Again, I associate myself with the comments of my friend from Colorado. I think the American people are absolutely fed up with the way that this process works. But what I think they're fed up with are those bills that stack a transportation issue beside a health care issue beside a Commerce Department issue beside a military issue beside a child care issue, all of these things that are completely unrelated to one another, Madam Speaker.

In this bill, one issue and one vote. And the gentleman is absolutely right: in a vote in the Rules Committee last night, Madam Speaker, we decided not to allow this bill to be complicated with nongermane issue after nongermane issue after nongermane issue. Those measures, these debates can actually come to the floor one item at a time, but we were not going to allow that to subsume what is also an important debate, and that's on the provisions that actually are contained in H.R. 273.

So given, Madam Speaker, that the gentleman observed no unfunded mandates in this bill, because there are no unfunded mandates in this bill, I ask the Chair to reject the point of order for there being unfunded mandates in this bill.

Madam Speaker, if I could conclude by just asking that in order to allow the House to continue its scheduled business for the day, I urge the Members to vote ``yes'' on the question of consideration of this resolution.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. WOODALL. Madam Speaker, House Resolution 66, this rule that we're considering today, will allow for debate on the underlying bill, H.R. 273.

This rule that we're considering today is a little bit unusual in that it not only allows for the underlying resolution, but it also takes care of some housekeeping business that we have here on the floor of the House. For example, all of America, Madam Speaker, has read of the nuclear tests that happened in North Korea, and this resolution allows us to consider tomorrow a bill under suspension of the rules to condemn that activity in North Korea. It's very important business that we are able to take care of here in the House. We would not be able to take care of it but for this rule. I'm glad we considered that here in the rule.

In this underlying bill, Madam Speaker, we're continuing what the President himself continued through March of this year. We're continuing through the end of the calendar year a freeze on the automatic increases in Federal employee pay. Again, I brought down a copy of the resolution, that small, front-and-back bill.

So often you see findings in these bills, Madam Speaker, you see findings about what the Congress believes and why this bill is coming to the floor. And I promise you, Madam Speaker, if you read this resolution--and, again, it's only a page and a half long, so it will be easy to do--you will not find one finding of contempt for Federal employees. In fact, if you had listened to the hearing in the Rules Committee last night, what you saw is universal praise for the hard work that our men and women in the civil service are doing for this country.

We have a lot of work that has to be done. I know it's a popular sport in some districts to kick Federal employees. Federal employees, by and large, work hard, though I'm happy to say you can distinguish, for example, the love and affection that so many of our constituencies have for our men and women in uniform. You see those pay-raise bills move through very quickly, versus a little suspicion that you have from time to time from folks who say, well, golly, I was just down at XYZ Federal office, and I didn't get great service. Golly, Rob, I was on the telephone trying to get results from X, Y or Z agency, and they kept me on hold for 3 1/2 hours. What are my dollars paying for?

I blame us for that, Madam Speaker. We owe better to our Federal employees than to put them in that circumstance. And gradually, not nearly fast enough, but gradually, our Federal employee system is moving towards recognizing hardworking, successful and dedicated employees through merit pay, through merit increases, through bonuses and through bumps--ways to say, do you know what, service matters. Service matters. And a one-size-fits-all pay scale does not work across the Federal system.

I'm very proud, Madam Speaker, I've just been appointed to the Oversight and Government Reform Committee in whose jurisdiction this bill is. I hope we're going to be able to take up those issues and build on that progress that has been made. But in all the conversation you'll hear on this floor--I won't say ``rhetoric,'' Madam Speaker, because, again, I know people's hearts are in this issue--in all the debate you will hear on this House floor, what you will not hear is that $1 is being cut from those merit bonuses. What you will not hear is that $1 is being removed from agencies that have an opportunity to say, Do you know what, job well done. You deserve a bonus. What you will not hear is that $1 is being taken that would have gone to recognize performance above and beyond in the service of our citizenry.

What you will hear is that in line with the recommendations of the much-discussed Simpson-Bowles Commission, a 3-year freeze on Federal automatic salary increases will be continued, upheld. It's been in effect for 2 years and 3 months, and it will continue through the end of the year.

Now, so often I hear, Madam Speaker, my constituents say, Rob, I just want to make sure that Congress is abiding by the same rules you ask everybody else to abide by.

I want to make that clear. That's what my friend from Colorado was discussing. It's not actually a provision in this bill that's extra. It's a function of law. Members of Congress' pay will absolutely be frozen for just as long--just as long. The same rules that apply to everybody apply to the Vice President, Mr. Speaker, apply to the executive branch, apply to folks back home in Georgia, apply across the board to Federal employees, and apply to everybody here in this Chamber.

We had one of the longest, and I would argue most intensive, hearings of our Rules Committee cycle last night, Mr. Speaker, where we explored this bill line by line, detail by detail. I was pleased to be part of that debate. I'm glad we had an opportunity, really, for unlimited time in which to do that. But I believe we crafted a good rule, Mr. Speaker, that will allow for thorough debate of this underlying bill.

Again, I would remind you, Mr. Speaker, and all Members, this bill, posted on the House Rules Committee Web site, front and back of a sheet of paper, is simple and direct for everyone in this House to be able to read and everyone back home to be able to read so that we can have a thorough debate on this bill this afternoon.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 90 seconds to say to my friend, I always appreciate the eloquence of his words. My only saving grace, Mr. Speaker, is that the facts are on my side. If the world was as the gentleman from Florida had described it, I'd probably be where the gentleman from Florida is in terms of position. That's not the case.

Every dollar we spend in this town, Mr. Speaker, has consequences. The $11 billion that we're talking about in this bill is not money that's being cut from the Federal budget; it's money that's not being given as an automatic inflater to every Federal salary in the land. Instead, it remains available to those agencies to perform the services that they were created to perform.

Let me just be clear, Mr. Speaker. That means for every dollar that is not going into a clerk's pocket at the Veterans Affairs Administration, that's a dollar that's going to go to implement Veterans Affairs services. For every dollar that's not going to be an automatic pay increase in my hometown at the CDC, it is going to go for critical research and infrastructure there to perform the very important role the CDC was created to perform.

We have to make choices, Mr. Speaker. Google ``Greece and pay cuts.'' Google ``Greece and pension cuts.'' In fact, don't just use Google. Use Yahoo. Use Bing. Use anything you'd like, Mr. Speaker. You will see where we are headed.

When you refuse to make the tough decisions that my friends are refusing to make with respect to the Federal budget, you know where those cuts are going to fall.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to yield 5 minutes to one of our very distinguished freshman Members, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Williams).


Mr. WOODALL. I yield myself 4 minutes to talk about cheap political stunts because I see a few cheap political stunts down here from time to time. I don't want to characterize anybody's behavior in that way as I don't think that's appropriate, but what I would say is, if we go to the very top of the GS scale and take a good senior person, like a GS-14 who is making $84,000 a year, this one-half percent pay increase that the President did by executive order and that we're saying won't go into effect until next year is going to give that one working person, that income earner for that family, $2,000 for that family to use over the next year.

Mr. McGOVERN. Will the gentleman yield for 10 seconds?

Mr. WOODALL. I will yield to the gentleman to answer this question: The gentleman sees here $10,793. That's the additional burden that the gentleman, when he controlled this Congress for 2 years with the President of the United States, also of his party, added to this working family's burden.

Now, when you come to the House floor and profess your affection for the working people in my district and when you express that affection by ensuring that, this year, one-half percent of their pay is going to go up, you're adding $10,000 for that worker, $10,000 for that worker's wife, $10,000 for that worker's oldest child, middle child and youngest child--for a family of five in my district. The gentleman added $50,000 in debt and deficit that has to be repaid.

Now, I know the gentleman was using his heart when he passed those programs that did this. I don't question the gentleman's motivation at all. What I do is take offense that the gentleman questions my motivation in shifting $2,000 from workers' salaries into programs--programs for veterans, programs for research, programs for health--and that he questions my commitment to working class people when, while he did this, he voted ``yes'' after ``yes'' after ``yes'' with no remorse whatsoever.

I'd be happy to yield to my friend, the gentleman from Massachusetts.


Mr. WOODALL. In reclaiming my time, I welcome my friend to the sequestration debate, the one that we tried to have last May with absolutely no assistance whatsoever.

Here we are at midnight on sequestration day, saying, Hey, let's do it. Folks, let's do it. Let's do it. Back in May, we passed a bill here. Let's do it with the bill we passed in August to solve the fiscal cliff. Let's do it with the one we passed in September. Let's do it with the one we passed in December.

There is not a person in this body I don't want to work with to solve these problems--there is not one--but when we do it here at the eleventh hour and say, Golly, I wish folks had gotten serious about it earlier. Mr. Speaker, we've been trying to get serious about it for 18 months. When the President passed the law of the land and signed this sequestration into law after the Joint Select Committee failed, the question isn't why are we having to plan for sequestration today; the question is why wasn't the administration planning for it 13 months ago, when we knew the law of the land was going to put it into effect come March 1, 2013?

With that, Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.


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. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 2 minutes. And I want to say of my friend from California, he gave a very thoughtful presentation in the Rules Committee last night. And as my colleague from Florida suggested, I am a big fan of open rules. It's early in the process. It's always harder to go through regular order until the committees have spun up.

But I would just say to my freshman friend from California that even if we had made an open rule controlling for this bill, the gentleman's amendment still would not have been made in order. It would have been ruled by the Parliamentarian as out of order, as being nongermane to the underlying bill.


Mr. WOODALL. I appreciate my friend's comment. He's absolutely right.

So my advice to my new freshman colleague from California would be, in this case, it's not an open rule that he's after; it's his colleagues on the Rules Committee working their Rules Committee magic to waive the rules. It would have actually taken a waiver of the House rules to allow the gentleman's amendment to come.

But he made a very passionate case last night, Mr. Speaker, and I know his heart is in this issue.

Mr. Speaker, I want to be clear about what this bill is and what this bill isn't. And what it isn't is a pay freeze for Federal employees, and, in fact, what has been the law of the land for the last 2 years has not been a pay freeze.

All of the increases that come with longevity have been taking place. All of the increases that come with promotions have been taking place. All of the increases that come with meritorious pay and bonuses and all of those activities have still been going on.

What this is, however, is a 9-month suspension of the automatic, across-the-board .5 percent increase that the President directed by executive order in December. That is all this bill is, and that's all this bill will be under this rule.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 3 minutes to say to the gentleman--he heard it from the gentleman from Virginia on my side of the aisle--the respect for Federal employees and the job that they do is not a question that's being debated here today.

The admiration that I have for the folks at the CDC, in my neck of the woods, the support that, led by the Speaker of the House from my State, Speaker Gingrich, to double the NIH budget, and then double it again. The kind of work that goes on here is undisputed.

But I want to show you, Mr. Speaker, what my constituents also see in their tough times, because it's not just the clerk at the VA that hasn't gotten a raise in 2 years.

I was talking with a friend of mine who's a clerk at a furniture store, single mom, child, son, 6 years old, hasn't gotten a raise in 2 years, makes $11 an hour.

Average median Federal wage, $74,000.

What I show you here is a chart from the CBO, the same organization that sites the job loss figures that you've quoted here earlier, that compares the work of folks with high school degrees, with a little bit of college, with college, in the private sector, the salaries and the benefits in the private sector with that of the public sector.

Now, I say to the gentleman, in no way, Mr. Speaker, do I want to minimize the tremendous responsibility placed on our Federal civilian workers. Again, I have chosen a career of public service, as have they, and I admire them for it. I know it's at great sacrifice to themselves and their families.


Mr. WOODALL. After this one sentence, and that is, in this tough time, until we can get our handle on the debt and the deficit, my constituents continue to look at how their tax dollars appear to be paying salaries and benefits higher to Federal employees than what my folks are getting back home.

I hope the CBO will produce a different report that shows a different result; but until it does, I wish my friends wouldn't categorize what's going on here as some sort of hateful act, disrespectful act towards Federal employees and could recognize it as a balancing of salaries and benefits that our own Congressional Budget Office has suggested is actually an inequity that exists today.

With that, I would be happy to yield to my friend, the gentleman from New Jersey.


Mr. WOODALL. I yield myself 2 minutes.

I just want to read from the Simpson-Bowles Commission report. And I want to read from it not because I support everything the Simpson-Bowles Commission had to say. I want to read from it not because it's a bill that has passed here on the floor of the House--it's been introduced but it hasn't passed--but I want to read from it because it was put together by the President to be a thoughtful, nonpartisan, deliberative body that would try to find those things in the Federal Government that should change to right the fiscal ship that is the United States of America. And this is what that group, appointed by President Obama, Republicans and Democrats, a thoughtful deliberative body, had to say:

Out of duty and patriotism, hardworking Federal employees provide a great service to this country. But in a time of budget shortfalls, all levels of government must trim back. In the recent recession, millions of private sector and State and municipal employees have had their wages frozen or cut back, and millions more lost their jobs altogether. In contrast, Federal workers' wages increase annually due to automatic formulas in law, providing them with cost-of-living adjustments totaling more than 5 percent in the last 2 years. This proposal would institute a 3-year government-wide freeze on Federal pay at every government agency, including the Department of Defense civilian workforce. This proposal will save $20.4 billion in 2015.

In 3 years, the President, to his credit, implemented the first 2 years of this proposal. Perhaps there was consultation with someone in this body. It wasn't with me. I serve on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The President, by executive order in December, decided he was not going to extend it a third year and was instead going to give a half percent pay raise.

These are issues that can absolutely be debated, Mr. Speaker.


Mr. WOODALL. I yield myself an additional 30 seconds.

This isn't a Republican idea; it's not a Democrat idea; it's not something that was created in the minds of folks who hate Federal employees and the Federal Government. It's an idea that came directly from the commission appointed by President Barack Obama to solve exactly the kind of fiscal problems that we are facing today.

Like it, don't like it, but don't say it's something that it's not, Mr. Speaker. This is an idea from the President's fiscal commission, and we're bringing it to the floor today.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume to say the gentleman believes we're wasting the American people's time. An equally precious commodity is the American people's money.

I talked earlier about the $10,000 per American inhabitant. A lot of folks do their numbers by American tax-paying families, Mr. Speaker. A lot of folks do their numbers by per adult or per children. I didn't want to game the system like that.

The chart I have right now, Mr. Speaker, $52,381. If you take today's $16.5 trillion debt that America has and divide it by every single human being that the Census Department tells us is in America in January 2013, you will find that we have borrowed and spent $52,381 for every human being in America.

I don't minimize the burden that will be on a family of four in my district when they don't receive that half a percent pay bump that the President tried to do by executive order that we're rescinding here today. I don't minimize that at all. But it is minimal compared to the $52,000 for each member of that family of four. That half a percent pay raise is minimal compared to the $208,000 that that family owes as its share of the Federal debt.

The gentleman from Florida, Mr. Speaker, made a very passionate presentation last night, and I believe he is absolutely right. He referenced himself and our ranking member as the only two folks in that committee who know anything about sacrifice. I always go through my grandparents' stuff. I was one of those kids who loved being in the attic. You always find neat stuff in the attic and the basement. I have all the ration stamps, Mr. Speaker--sugar, rubber. I don't know what that's like. I don't know what that's like for a Nation to come together with such a sense of purpose that they say we're going to police ourselves and our own family. We're going to have the posters up on the wall that say ``loose lips sink ships,'' and don't waste because we need it for the war effort, and we're going to come together and make that happen.

In fact, the last time, Mr. Speaker, this country had the kind of debt as a percentage of the size of its economy that it has today was when we were coming out of World War II. In that time, when we were rationing rubber and sugar, when we no longer minted our currency with copper because we didn't have enough to go around--or nickel--we were using steel to put the coins together at that time. In that time of crisis, Mr. Speaker, when we thought the freedom of the world was on the line, we borrowed the largest amount of money ever borrowed in the history of this country to win World War II.

As we stand here today, we have borrowed trillions more in actual dollars, but that same gargantuan number of 100 percent of our economy. And for what? What does that leave us when the next crisis comes--and I promise you it will. The next crisis will come, and the tools that we have to address it will have been eroded by the policies of today.

I take no pleasure in being down here today managing the rule that will extend into year 3 a Federal employee pay freeze. I told folks in my constituency, Mr. Speaker, I said I want to come back home and I want to tell you how much I've been doing good work for you in Washington and doggone it I deserve a pay raise. I want us all to be so successful that we can go back home and tell folks we deserve it. But with $16.4 trillion in debt, 4 years of no budgets at all coming out of this town, trillion-dollar annual deficits, we don't.

If you think the pain of a 3-year pay freeze is bad, Mr. Speaker, Google Greece, Bing Greece, do your Yahoo search on Greece--not half a percent freezes, but double-digit cuts to Federal benefits; double-digit cuts to pensions that seniors are relying on; double-digit cuts to salaries; layoffs, double-digit percentages. It doesn't get better on its own, Mr. Speaker. We have to do it.

My friend from Florida is so right, Mr. Speaker: we have to come together to solve the bigger problems. This is not the bigger problem. At best, this is a symptom of a problem. At worst, it's just something we're trying to do to manage through.

In this body, Mr. Speaker, and the Senate, the President, we put six of our best minds from the House, three Democrats and three Republicans, six of our best minds from the Senate, three Democrats and three Republicans, and we locked them in a room for about 3 months and said do anything, do anything you want to with the Federal budget. Dream your biggest dreams. Come up with your best ideas. Get outside the box. And we're going to close the door so you can have that conversation with the utmost candor, Republicans and Democrats alike, House Members and Senate Members alike.

After 3 months, Mr. Speaker, having looked at literally hundreds of trillions of dollars of Federal spending going out for decades, they found that they could agree on not even one dollar, not one dollar in changes.

Mr. Speaker, as you well know, and as the freshman Members of this body are going to learn, we only control one-third of the budget here, just one-third of the budget, that discretionary spending, one-third of the budget. That's where the Federal employee salaries are, one-third of the budget. So everything we do to try to get a handle on $52,000 in debt per man, woman and child in America, everything we do to try to get our fiscal ship sailing straight once again is coming from that one-third.

Because to get to the real drivers of the debt, Mr. Speaker, to get to the real drivers, we've got to get into the two-thirds, the two-thirds that can only get to the table when the House and the Senate and the President all agree.


Mr. WOODALL. Reclaiming my time, Mr. Speaker--and again, pleasure to yield--I say to my friend, I fear it's thinking like that that's going to take us exactly there.

Mr. Speaker, again, I take no pleasure in this freeze today. I believe in shared sacrifice across this country to solve our problems. The only thing that would be permissible in this legislation is to ensure that Members of Congress and fellow employees are both frozen together, as is ensured in this legislation.

I urge my colleagues to support this rule, bring this bill to the floor, support this underlying resolution, and remember that until $52,381 per man, woman and child in this country reads ``zero,'' we're going to have these discussions again and again and again.

The President, Mr. Speaker, I'm told is planning to produce a budget. It's not going to be this month. It may come next month. Do you know that in the 2 years I've been here as a Member of Congress, the President's budgets never, ever, ever pay down one penny of this debt? We're complicit in this, Mr. Speaker; and, together, we can get ourselves out of it.


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