Hoyer Morning Hour Speech on Federal Employees

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“Yesterday, we passed a Defense Authorization bill that had a 1.6% increase for our military personnel. That was an appropriate thing for us to do. However, at the same time we are looking at reducing very substantially the pay and benefits available to our civilian federal employees.

“I rise out of deep concern that this Congress continues to ask one group to sacrifice to bring down our nation's deficit while not asking others to contribute as well. That one group are average working Americans. Now, they work for the federal government, some perhaps the state and local governments, and there is an antipathy towards government by many, many of the public, many members of this House. That antipathy is therefore focused on the workers. But we have substantially less federal employees today than we had twenty years ago, not in terms of real numbers but in terms of per capita where the population has substantially expanded and the number of federal employees per person to be served has been substantially reduced.

“With all of the challenges we face today on a national scale, we ought to ensure that those who help devise solutions and carry them out receive the recognition they are due. They should not be constantly subjected to the kind of verbal attacks and legislative assaults we have seen over the past couple of years, and that are included in the bills that have passed this House this past week.

“I am speaking, of course, about America’s public servants. Those who work in civilian government positions are no less important to our safety, health, prosperity, and general well-being as their military counterparts who protect our freedom. I honor our troops. I’m going to be wearing a yellow ribbon later today to welcome home those troops who have fought to protect our country, defeat terrorists, and stabilize the international community. They have blessed America with their courage, commitment, and service, but federal civilian employees make certain that the products we buy and prescription drugs we use are safe. They perform critical research to advance the fight against cancer and disease. They help our farmers and ranchers access new markets for their goods. They see millions of passengers travel safely across our skies and keep watch over our ports and border crossings. They ensure a fair playing field for banks and businesses and enforce the rules we have in place to preserve the health of our air and water from pollution.

“So many of the public functions we often take for granted are the purview of the hard-working men and women who constitute our federal workforce. These are middle class Americans who have, in many cases, chosen to serve their country by lending their talents and skills – some for a short time, others for their whole careers.

“As an American I am proud of the work they do, and as a Member of Congress from Maryland I am proud to represent a great number of them in this House. But for those who believe that most or even many of our federal workers live here in Washington, Maryland, and Virginia, let me set the record straight.

“Eighty-five percent of federal employees live and work outside of the greater Washington area. They provide essential services to neighbors in communities in all fifty states and in every single one of our districts. While everything must be on the table when addressing the budget, I am deeply disappointed that Republicans continue to attack these public servants unfairly and single them out to sacrifice while not asking others, including the wealthiest Americans, to share in the burden of deficit reduction.

“When middle class families across the country are struggling to make ends meet, federal employees have already accepted a two-year pay freeze. This comes on top of salaries that are already lower than those for comparable private sector jobs. In fact, the federal salary council’s annual report last month found that federal workers are paid, on average, 26.3 percent less than comparable private sector workers. Now, some people don't understand that because what we ask our federal employees to do requires, for the most part, high skills. We have a lot of engineers, scientists, doctors at NIH, at NASA, in the FBI, highly skilled, highly educated people. 26.3% differential in pay for comparable work that is done in the private sector. Now, many of you sitting there and perhaps our viewers say, ‘Oh, that's not true because I see what the average salaries are.’ What they don't see is the average requirements for skills.

“America’s public servants are already making sacrifices, because they love this country and recognize that, when times are tight, everyone has to pitch in, even the best off in America

“A belief in smaller government does not grant one license to diminish the contributions made by those who serve in government. If we cut government we need less people to run it, that makes sense. But what does not make sense is to undermine the ability to recruit and retain the quality of people that we need to continue to make this country a long and partnership with the private sector the greatest country on the face of the earth.

“We must always remember that we are blessed, as Lincoln said, with a government of the people and by the people, and there is a bond that ties us together – the one who serves and the one who benefits from that service. It is the bond of a neighbor and that of a fellow American. Let us remember that yes, we need to notch the belt in a notch. We need to make sure that we are on a fiscally sustainable path, but let us do so in a way that has everybody contribute, not just an unfavored few who serve us well.”