WASHINGTON – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) and senior members of the Democratic Caucus today questioned certain portions of the 2004 Department of Defense Authorization Bill, which contains extraneous and damaging provisions to the environment, civil service and nuclear policy. The following is Representative Hoyer’s statement as prepared for delivery:
“Tomorrow, as you know, the House is expected to begin consideration of the Fiscal Year 2004 Defense Authorization Bill (HR 1588). And today, we are here for two reasons.
“First, we want to point out that Congressional Republicans have taken this usually bipartisan legislation – which traditionally unites Members on both sides of the aisle – and turned it into a vehicle for unnecessary partisanship. And second, we believe it’s critical to expose a Republican practice that is becoming far too common: to insulate sweeping policy changes from serious scrutiny by invoking the words “national security” and casting anyone who raises questions as, at best, an impediment to national security, and at worst, unpatriotic.
“This defense authorization contains many important provisions that are supported by both Democrats and Republicans. It provides good pay, housing and training for the men and women in uniform, and funds important modernization priorities that will ensure that we have the most technologically advanced military in the world. It will pass overwhelmingly, with broad support from Democrats, who stand squarely behind our troops and believe we must do everything possible to protect our national security.
“But, Republicans have added extraneous measures to this bill that will gut the civil service system, harm the environment and usher in a major change in America’s nuclear weapons policy. Democrats demand that the Rules Committee make key Democratic amendments in order, giving us a fair opportunity to raise such issues on the Floor.
“In particular, the process by which the civil service reform has been rushed to the Floor is nothing short of appalling. This proposal was conceived by a handful of the President’s closest advisors with no public input – amazingly not a single federal employee group was consulted during its creation. And since its introduction in the House just three weeks ago today, the measure has been the subject of only a couple of congressional hearings at which only a handful of witnesses testified.
“Why the urgency to enact such sweeping reforms? I agree there are problems in the federal personnel system that must be fixed, but the resounding success of the military operation in Iraq clearly indicates the system is not so broken that we cannot take the time for serious consideration of this proposal to make sure that it will work.
“I am pleased to have with me a distinguished group of members, experts on these subjects, to further explain the deficiencies in the legislation, and the improvements that Democrats would make.