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 stop the furloughs of civilian Department of Defense employees by replacing the sequester with a balanced deficit reduction agreement. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
“Mr. Speaker, beginning this week, literally hundreds of thousands of civilian workers are being furloughed, particularly at the defense installations in Maryland’s Fifth District, across the state, and around the country. That means, as of Monday, more than 650,000 hardworking, middle-class defense employees are being forced to take a 20% pay cut for the remainder of the fiscal year.
“Now, it isn't because they're not doing their job well. They are. It isn't because they don't have enough work. They do. And it isn't because we don't need their talents, their experience, and their dedication to service. We need them more now than ever. These employees are being furloughed because Congress has failed.
"Congress has failed to achieve deficit reduction in a balanced and responsible way. In fact, we passed a budget through the House of Representatives, the United States Senate has passed a budget, but the House of Representatives and Republican leadership refuses to go to conference. Refuses to follow regular order, for which they called so frequently. Refuses to try to bring a compromise agreement back to this Floor. This Congress has failed to achieve deficit reduction in a balanced and responsible way. Instead we now have the sequester: a senseless, stupid, irrational policy. That's a real shame, Mr. Speaker, that partisan politics is keeping some of our country's best and brightest from doing their jobs supporting our war-fighters as they serve in Afghanistan and around the world.
“Last Tuesday, I met with some of the outstanding men and women who work at civilian defense jobs at Pax River Naval Air Station in my district. When you go to Pax River, you often see uniformed and civilian personnel sitting side-by-side, working to accomplish the same mission, serving with the same dedication – partners in making our government stronger and making our defense stronger – each complementing the work of the other. Now, as a result of these furloughs, one of them will get a 20% pay cut. One of them will be told to go home. One of them will be told you can't even volunteer to come back and get the job done. And the other will get one day a week of having to carry out the mission alone.
“At that meeting, I heard from members of the Pax River community who are deeply concerned about the effects of these furloughs on our military readiness, our ongoing missions, on department morale, and on the local economy. Now they were concerned about themselves, but they were mainly concerned about the job that was going to be left undone, finished late, undermining our security.
“One person scheduled to be furloughed this Friday told me – and I quote: ‘I have a strong work ethic, and I want to get the job done, whether it’s late nights and weekends. …and I’m worried someone will come to me [on a Thursday], and I’ll have to say I can’t get a job done until Monday’ – because we are telling that person you can't come to work.
“Another employee who was there last Tuesday emailed me afterward about the upcoming furlough, writing, and I quote: ‘There are many people in this organization who stretch themselves day after day’ – and they put in parentheses ‘happily' -enthusiastically, willing to do so, want to do so – ‘to get the work done that needs to get done, to support the Department of Defense and the war-fighter.’
"I will tell you – so many Members of the aisle on both sides have met these folks – not these specific folks, perhaps at Pax, but around this country who are dedicated, patriotic, hardworking and want to make sure their country is strong and that we serve our people. This one constituent continues, and I quote: ‘I've already started to see some of these same people give less of themselves because they feel our congressmen’ – that's meaning all of us – ‘and our country no longer puts value in what they do.’
“We are undermining the morale of the American workers. We are undermining the ability of the American government to be as effective with respect to national defense as it needs to be.
“Mr. Speaker, this sequester is harming morale and may lead skilled employees to leave for the private sector just when we need them most. The effects of the sequester extend beyond the gates of our installations and affect entire communities, with local businesses standing to lose as a result of belt-tightening by families experiencing furloughs.
“At the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Indian Head, also in Maryland's Fifth District, 97% of civilian personnel will be furloughed. That's more than 1,870 people.
“Mr. Speaker, there's no reason why our civilian defense workers should be kept from doing their job just because Congress hasn't done its job.
“As long as the sequester remains in effect, and as long as Republicans refuse to compromise on a balanced approach to deficits that can end it, I’ll keep coming to this Floor and remind them exactly what is at stake. And I continue to call on Speaker Boehner to end the unnecessary delay in appointing budget conferees, which would be the significant step towards beginning negotiations in earnest that could lead to a big and balanced compromise on deficits.
“We need to bring deficits down. We need to get our country on a fiscally sustainable path, but we need to do so in a rational way, which does not undermine our national security, does not undermine the services being rendered to the people who are relying on them, and that does not send the message to our employees and those whom we need to recruit in the future that we're [not] a good employer. We're a caring employer, we're an effective employer, and you ought to work for us, you ought to work for your country, for your fellow citizens.
“Mr. Speaker, we need to go to conference, we need to get rid of the sequester, we need to put America on a rational path to fiscal responsibility and effectiveness, and I yield back the balance of my time.”