WASHINGTON - House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, released the following statement today after the House passed the fiscal year 2004 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill.
“Over the past year, our nation has relied heavily on the impressive work of her public servants. Federal employees play a key role in how we address and respond to the critical decisions facing our nation. I supported this bill today because I believe it will meet many of the needs of our legislative agencies in the coming year. However, I cannot express strongly enough the importance I attach to fairly compensating the federal employees serving our country.
“I have long been concerned with the fair treatment of workers, including temporary workers employed by the legislative branch. Section 133 of the Legislative Appropriations Act of 2002, which became law on November 12, 2001, prohibits the AOC from employing temporary workers for long periods without providing eligibility for employee benefits. However, since the passage of this law, this is not happening.
“Much to my dismay, the architect has not implemented section 133 more than two years after it was the law of the land, despite the clearest of congressional intentions and the fact that the General Accounting Office has determined that section 133 provides the architect with the authority to treat temporary workers fairly. This is unacceptable.
“Two weeks ago in committee, I offered an amendment included in the bill that passed today which restates section 133. My expectation with this amendment is simple: that Mr. Hantman will finally appreciate that Congress meant what it said two years ago when it instructed his office to fairly treat temporary workers.
“Additionally, I am very distressed by the proposed 3.7% cost-of-living adjustment for legislative branch employees. If Congress is to attract and retain the best employees the marketplace has to offer, we must improve our compensation practices, including COLAs.
“There is no legitimate reason why legislative employees should not receive the same 4.1% COLA that the FY 04 Budget Resolution proposed for the military and the executive branch. In this resolution, Congress expressed strong bipartisan support for a 4.1% adjustment for the federal workforce and I think it sends an extremely unfortunate message to our public servants if we propose anything less than 4.1%.
“I will urge members who will serve on the conference committee to send a signal of Congress’ commitment to federal employees by supporting the higher COLA figure they deserve.”