House Education and the Workforce Committee Democrats walked out of a committee debate and vote on the majority's bill to rewrite the Workforce Investment Act today. The GOP bill is expected to go to the House floor next week. Reps. John Tierney (D-MA), Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) and George Miller (D-Calif.) released the following statement.
"We didn't come to this decision lightly. Unfortunately, we viewed boycotting this proceeding as our only alternative after many months of repeatedly requesting bipartisan negotiations and being rebuffed by committee Republicans. The Republican bill has scant support and has garnered significant opposition. Democrats can only come to the conclusion that this bill is being advanced for political reasons, not to make the workforce investment system work better. It would have been a dereliction of duty to continue to participate.
"Over the last 40 years, job training and reemployment issues have been bipartisan. It is well understood that, to be successful, any effort to reform this system and make lasting change for American workers and employers requires bipartisanship. Even Republicans acknowledge this reality. Last year, when a nearly identical bill was rammed through committee, even our former Republican Chairman Buck McKeon expressed concern that it was the responsibility of the majority to work with the minority. He concluded that he 'would like to see us work in that same mode where we really try to work together. Because I don't think it is the Republican bill or the Democrat bill, but it should be all of our bill.'
"Democrats agree. Last week, at this year's only hearing scheduled on workforce investment issues prior to considering this bill, committee Democrats publically called for bipartisan talks to rewrite the Workforce Investment Act. We were denied. On Monday, we sent a letter asking Chairs Kline and Foxx to cancel Wednesday's markup and instead hold member-to-member negotiations to see if we can reach a compromise. We have received no response.
"These actions have made us conclude that this process is seriously broken and we therefore choose not to participate. What should be a process designed to produce important reforms for our nation's working families is now designed and timed to facilitate the Republican leadership's public relations efforts to rebrand their party. This is a true pity.
"This process is serving a political agenda. It is not serving the American people. The American people expect the Congress and this committee to at least attempt to work together where possible. While we won't always agree on every issue, Democrats on the committee believe that bipartisan consensus was and is still possible on this reauthorization. We stand ready to work together to remake the workforce investment system so that it is efficient, effective, and accountable for the nation's workers, businesses and taxpayers and that training and employment services reach workers who need them. We once again call on the majority to abandon this political process and schedule real, meaningful bipartisan negotiations and prove to the American people that not everything about Congress is broken."