Mariel Saez, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this morning about the need to replace the sequester with a balanced alternative and end civilian defense employee furloughs. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
“Mr. Speaker, for civilian defense employees at Pax River Naval Air Station, Webster Field, and the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Indian Head, all of which I represent – and [Rep. Walter Jones, NC-10], who's on the Floor, represents a substantial number as well in his district – sequestration hit home last week as furloughs began. The same is true for 650,000 civilian defense workers throughout our country.
“The furloughs brought on by the irrational policy of sequestration are harming our national security and putting our military readiness at risk. At the same time, they also represent a severe 20% pay cut in the form of days when they are forced to stay home without pay, forbidden even from volunteering to continue performing their important task.
“Federal employees, including those in civilian defense positions, have already contributed $114 billion over the last three years for the next seven years towards deficit reduction, from pay freezes and changes in retirement benefits. These are hardworking, dedicated men and women who only want to serve their country and make a difference.
“As I said on this Floor last week, I went to Pax River two weeks ago to meet with many of those preparing to be furloughed. I heard their concerns about the sequester's effect on the missions of our men and women in uniform, whom these fine civilian employees support. We have men and women at the point of the spear, but we have a lot of men and women who are making sure they can be as effective and safe as possible at the point of that spear. And I heard from them about how the sequester is affecting morale on and off base. What I didn't hear much at all from those employees was concern for themselves about how furloughs will impact their own families. That's because their number one concern, even facing an undeserved 20% pay cut, is still their ability to serve and get the job done for our troops and all of us who depend on a strong national defense.
“After my meeting with civilian defense employees from Maryland's Fifth District, I received an email message from an employee at Webster Field. He wrote this – and I quote: ‘We pride ourselves in not only delivering a quality product but on being responsive to the emergent needs of our soldiers and sailors around the world.’ He went on to say – and I quote: ‘If our dedicated folks are told to turn the lights off and lock the doors at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, then who will provide that level of responsiveness our military counterparts have so desperately come to expect and rely on when no one is here to respond to the call on Friday? What message,’ he said, ‘does that send to the civilians and contractors who have made it their mission to ensure our military never goes without critical equipment, data, and training they need?’
“He goes on to say: ‘I genuinely worry that it devalues the level of effort that our employees have put forth, and when you're losing your pay, and your work appears to be less important, it will become much harder to retain a lot of these very talented folks.’ Not my words, Mr. Speaker, but the words of one of America’s many selfless public servants who are concerned about this dangerous sequester.
“What will it take for Congress to act? We've also seen air combat units grounded, and some classes at the Naval Academy this fall could be canceled if sequester continues. The only way to reverse these effects, Mr. Speaker, on our military readiness and training, is to replace the sequester with a big and balanced alternative.
“Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen has proposed a balanced alternative seven times, but the Majority has not allowed us to consider a balanced plan on this Floor. If we had on this Floor an alternative to the sequester that achieves real deficit reduction, which we know we need, through a balance of revenues and targeted spending cuts, Mr. Speaker, I believe that the Majority of us, Republican and Democrat, would come together and would support it.
“It's time for Speaker Boehner to appoint budget conferees so that House and Senate negotiators can begin to reach agreement on a balanced compromise. I will continue, Mr. Speaker, to call on both parties to listen to the men and women of Pax River, of Webster Field, of Indian Head, Quantico, the folks in North Carolina that Mr. Jones represents, the folks in Maryland that I represent, the folks in Connecticut that Mr. Courtney represents, the folks in Massachusetts that my good friend, the Ranking Member – almost Ranking Member – on the Rules Committee represents, and the Gentleman from Illinois represents.
“They and I will continue to [call] on both parties to act – to act on a balanced, rational, reasonable alternative that brings deficits down but maintains our national security and the morale of the people who every day work to protect our great land, and I yield back the balance of my time.”