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Elimination of 2013 Pay Adjustment

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CUMMINGS. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong opposition to H.R. 273. Given the many critical challenges our Nation faces, I and many of my colleagues hope that the 113th Congress would bring a new era of shared purpose that would enable us to work together to grow the Nation's economy, create jobs, and invest in our country's future. There are only 5 legislative days, Mr. Speaker, left before the across-the-board cuts required by sequestration will take effect. Rather than seeking solutions to the urgent challenges we face, our Republican friends are wasting 2 days simply renewing their attacks on middle class, hardworking Federal employees.

H.R. 273 has one purpose: it would extend the current freeze on Federal employees' pay for a third consecutive year. Mr. Speaker, Federal workers--the same Federal workers who care for our veterans, the same ones that clean our offices, the same ones that find cures to devastating diseases at NIH, the same ones that secure our borders, the same ones that regulate our drug supply--have already contributed more than $100 billion towards reducing the deficit and funding unemployment benefits for millions of American workers. No other group of Americans has contributed more to reducing the deficit. No other group has contributed more to ensuring our government remains strong. No other group has worked harder to ensure we're securing our Nation from threats. No other group has worked harder to provide the services on which our fellow citizens depend.

If H.R. 273 becomes law, the same middle class, hardworking workers would be required to contribute another $11 billion towards deficit reduction, for a staggering total of nearly $115 billion. These are the same workers who have had their pay frozen for years. And these are the same workers who are now facing the very real threat of furloughs and layoffs if Congress fails to resolve sequestration by March 1. It's estimated that 1 million employees will suffer furlough days. The administration estimates that the arbitrary across-the-board budget cuts for Federal agencies that would be required under sequestration will result in the furlough of, again, a million employees.

We are at a tipping point in our Nation. The American people have reelected President Obama and voted in favor of policies that will support continued growth, create new and expanded job opportunities, and ensure the safety and health of our great Nation. However, here in the House, the voters are not being heard, and we continue to waste time considering measures that will only make our fellow Americans less financially secure, less secure in their health care, less secure in their children's education, and less secure in their jobs.

One of the arguments that we consistently hear is that we need certainty. People need to know exactly what is going to happen in their lives. We've heard that argument over and over and over again. Yet when it comes to Federal employees, we leave them in the lurch, not knowing how much the next paycheck will be. At the same time, House Republicans have refused to consider asking the richest among us to contribute a dime more. And that's one of the most painful things about this entire thing. A lot of times when I'm interviewing people to come to our staff, a lot of them tell me, Congressman, we don't mind not taking paychecks from the private sector because we want to do good for the public sector. And they say that they want to simply feed their souls. They want to do something significant. They want to affect broad groups of people. But yet this is what they get.

We could have spent today considering a proposal to eliminate tax breaks used by oil and gas companies and hedge fund managers. We could have spent today considering a limit to itemized deductions for the wealthiest Americans. Instead, House Republicans continue to return to the same hardworking middle class American workers over and over and over again.

The problem is that these repeated cuts will impair the ability of the government to carry out its mission and service to the American people. Social Security is located in my district, and I have seen and talked to our Social Security employees, as they are my neighbors. And they tell me that they have seen cut after cut with regard to employees. And now you've got people who once had three people doing a job, now there's one. And the cuts continue. They don't mind working, they don't mind sacrifices. But they said that if you're going to make us sacrifice, then let's have some equal sacrificing from people who can afford the cuts.

As President Obama has emphasized, ``our economy succeeds and our economy grows when everybody's getting a fair shot and everybody's getting a fair shake.'' I urge my colleagues to move beyond this partisan agenda of denigrating our Nation's public servants and join together to address the real issues Americans elected us to solve.


Mr. CUMMINGS. Mr. Speaker, the Republicans keep citing the Simpson-Bowles Commission in support of the bill. The Simpson-Bowles Commission was a comprehensive deficit-reduction proposal that called for shared sacrifice from all groups of Americans. I see only one group of Americans being asked to sacrifice in this bill, and that's Federal employees.

The studies conducted by the Congressional Budget Office, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation rely upon U.S. Census Bureau's current population survey, which consists of self-reported data from surveys of households. This data is not as reliable as the data tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is used by the President's Pay Agent to set the annual Federal pay adjustments.


Mr. CUMMINGS. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Lynch mentioned a nurse taking care of veterans. I just want to say that it's not about somebody being unskilled. She's taking care of some folks who have served us and need skillful workers, and $27,000, I don't know whether anybody has looked at daycare here lately, but just daycare can cost you $27,000.


Mr. CUMMINGS. The gentleman talked about the employees on our committees taking a pay cut. That's true that they took a pay cut, and every single one of my employees who took a 5 percent pay cut--and sometimes a little bit more--said one thing to me: We don't mind sacrificing. We will. This was from every single one of them. But they said: Others have sacrificed, too.


Mr. CUMMINGS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

My good friend, the chairman of our committee, has several times talked about loyal opposition. I am not the loyal opposition. I am someone who believes in what I'm talking about, and I'm not standing here opposing legislation just to be opposing it because I'm a Democrat.

We have to put a human face on all of this. I live in an area in Baltimore where a lot of these employees who are making $40,000, $45,000 or less take the early bus, and they are the ones who believe in what they do. The Social Security Administration is smack dab in the middle of my district.

I think about the people who make $100,000 or more, but we have to remember who those employees are. Many of them we see every day. These are employees who are highly skilled professionals, and I think Mr. Wolf and Mr. LoBiondo talked about them. These are folks, such as doctors on staff at the Department of Veterans Affairs, who treat our wounded warriors. They're the lawyers at the Department of Justice and at the Securities and Exchange Commission, and we've heard their testimony before our committee. These are folks who deal with some very, very complex issues, and almost any law firm would be willing to pay them far more than what they are earning to work for the agencies for which they work. These are the folks who investigate and prosecute complex fraud and criminal cases. These are some of the most famous scientists in the world and air traffic controllers who help navigate our planes.

Just a few months ago, the ranking member and the chairman of the committee and I went to an awards ceremony at which Federal employees, who contribute so much to our society and who could earn far more than what they're earning, were getting awards for doing some very magnificent and awesome things.

I want to just spend some time on this one issue. It's not so much again that Federal employees don't mind sacrificing. They don't mind sacrificing. The question is will others sacrifice, too, those who are making far more money than they're making. But yet and still they're asked over and over and over again to pay more and more and more.

And so this is a very deep-felt situation with most of the people who have spoken--all of them. And as I listened to Mr. LoBiondo and I listened to Mr. Wolf, what they were basically doing was making a case and reminding us that Federal employees go into the business of being our Federal employees because they want to make a difference.


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