Mariel Saez, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke at a press conference this afternoon with Democratic Members of the Washington Metropolitan Delegation, National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) National President Colleen M. Kelley, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) President J. David Cox, National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) President Bill Dougan, and federal workers about the negative effects of the Republican government shutdown on federal employees. Below is a transcript and a link to the video.
Click here to watch the video.
“Good afternoon. Of course as we all know, it is not a good afternoon. It is an afternoon filled with angst, anxiety, fear, doubt, lack of confidence, and a concern all over America about whether their government can and does work. I want to thank all of you for being here. I know you share all that anxiety and fear, for your families and for yourselves. We want to thank you for the service you give to our federal government.
“I want to thank Colleen Kelley and Bill Dougan, Marcello Del Campo, George Schaffler, Rudy D’Alessandro, J. David Cox – where’s David? Hey David. And of course I’m joined by my colleagues, Gerry Connolly from Virginia, John Delaney from Maryland, Jim Moran from Virginia, Dutch Ruppersberger from Baltimore County and John Sarbanes from all over. Who else? That’s it.
“We’re here, not just because we represent a lot of federal employees. We do that. We are here because we are concerned about the operations of the United States government. And Elijah Cummings is here, Elijah Cummings who is the Ranking Member of the Government Reform Committee and is our point person on issues related to federal employees.
“It would be better if all of the folks that are with us were at work on behalf of the American people. They don't want to shut down. Neither do Democrats. The proposition that some Republicans have said that Democrats want to shut down the government is so patently absurd, so unbelievable, that it's almost not even worth responding to.
“We had a shutdown seventeen years ago. The Republicans were in charge of the House of Representatives, and they tried to stare down Bill Clinton by cutting deeply in the education of our children. And Bill Clinton said: ‘we're not going to do that.’ And they shut down government. So this is a pattern for them, a tragic pattern for the American people, for our economy, and for our national security.
“Our federal employees play a crucial role in keeping America strong, safe, and free. But House Republicans have decided to use them as pawns in their obsessive, partisan game against health care reform. I keep reminding them there was an election last November. That was one of the issues that was front and center. And the American people re-elected Barack Obama. And they re-elected a United States Senate controlled by Democrats and expanded their majority. And they expanded the number of Democrats in the House of Representatives. Notwithstanding that, they continue to act as if they were solely in charge. They continue to refuse to compromise.
“They’ve already been asked to give up so much, these federal employees behind me. Four years of no COLA, constantly being berated on the Floor of the House of Representatives and the United States Senate by some who do not appreciate their service. I said the other day if any of us were members of a board of directors of a corporation and treated our employees that way, the stockholders would fire us. They ought to be commended, our federal employees, not treated with such disrespect.
“Republicans shut down the government because of their unreasonable, irrational Tea Party wing that their party has left to control the House of Representatives. This is very disappointing. Because I’m confident there are a majority of Republicans who are [not] bent on radical destruction and want to keep government open – who are not focused on that. However, I must say I was extraordinarily disappointed the other day when we had a vote on a rule that prevented us from keeping government open, and only three moderate Republicans voted against that rule.
“The American people need to expect more of their representatives. All it would take to end this shutdown is for Speaker Boehner to put the Senate's clean, compromise funding bill on the Floor. Somebody came up to me the other day and said their mother called them and said ‘that Hoyer gave a great speech, tell him I said thank you, and by the way, what's a C.R.?’ And that mother was correct. What we're talking about, without jargon, is keeping America's government open, serving the people of the United States of America. That's what we’re talking about.
“Now I urge Speaker Boehner, let us have that vote. Let democracy work. Let Members put their vote up on the board as to whether they're for having the government serve the people or they're against having the government serve the people. Whether they want to take hostage the government of the American people or whether they want the American people to be served by these men and women and – millions of them, hundreds of thousands of them, around this country.
“You see a lot of Washington suburban representatives here. Is [Congresswoman] Eleanor [Holmes Norton] here yet? We're hoping Eleanor will be here as well.
“Democrats will continue to stand for our patriotic federal workers and the important work they perform. I want to thank all of you for being here. And I now want to yield to a few of my colleagues very quickly, because we want to get to Colleen Kelley and J. David Cox and other leaders of our employees, including Bill Dougan of NFFE.
“Oh, Eleanor is here. I just mentioned you, Eleanor. Thank you for being with us. Now, I think, the senior representative behind me is Jim Moran – let me yield to him.”