Hoyer Remarks on Executive Order Targeting Federal Employees

January 24, 2017

“Yesterday, President Trump issued an Executive Order. He imposed a hiring freeze on the federal workforce. It was not only a freeze, but an attack on those serving our country and a misguided action that will achieve the opposite of what is intended.

“For those who are listening in the chamber, Mr. Speaker, let me say that I’m proud to represent 62,000 federal employees. Hopefully all of us refer to them as working people. We all say we want to be supportive of working people. Some people, however, in this body and down the avenue, exempt federal employees as working people. They are not only working people, but they are working for the American people.

“Let’s not forget that two-thirds of federal employees live and work outside the greater Washington area. It’s very nice to say, ‘all those bureaucrats in Washington,’ but two-thirds of our federal employees serve in every community around our country, serving and protecting them.

“The FBI agents, agents around the world who work for the Central Intelligence Agency, 117 of whom who died in service, the President spoke in front of their memorial the other day. Employees of the Centers for Disease Control [are] keeping us healthy as communities and as a country, protecting our children and families from diseases that would attack us. Federal employees at the National Institutes of Health [are] studying how we prevent and cure cancer, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, autism, other afflictions that confront our country, both health care from the physical and mental standpoint. And, yes, nurses at our veterans’ hospitals. A freeze so that if a nurse leaves, you can’t replace her or him. A doctor at a veterans hospital leaves, you can’t replace that doctor, apparently. Even at the IRS where we talk about making sure our tax system is fair and making sure that everybody pays their fair share, we undermine the ability to make that a reality. Our Border Patrol keeps our borders safe; [employees at the Department of] Homeland Security keep our homeland safe. They serve the public in every state and every Congressional district in the country.

“This hiring freeze will not save us money or do anything to make the government more efficient. Should we do both? Yes. Will this policy do it? No. Its effect will be a reduction in the level of service benefiting the American people; greater difficulty in recruiting and retaining the most talented Americans to public service; and increased costs as a result of having to hire more expensive, private contractors to do the work that still needs to be done. That’s something that the public doesn’t understand. That, frankly, we exploded in the early part of this century the contracting out, which gave us less control and more cost. It’s more expensive to contract out.

“Already our federal employees made significant sacrifices toward achieving a greater fiscal sustainability in this country. Now, let me give you the magnitude of that. Federal employees over the last ten years have given up $159 billion in pay and benefits to which they would otherwise have been entitled, but we withdrew those resources from them.

“Instead of continuing to vilify federal civilian employees as they have done for years, when I say they, the politicians have done it. Mostly on the Republican side of the aisle, but perhaps not exclusively, vilified our federal employees. Republicans in Congress and in the White House ought to be thanking them for their hard work.

“I can’t imagine any of us would treat our own employees, Mr. Speaker, in a fashion that said we’re going to lay you off, we’re going to undercut your pay, we’re not going to give you the benefits which we promised you, and think they were going to keep personnel onboard with high morale and highly motivated to do the job, not only for us Members but for the American people.

“No employer would think they could mistreat their employees and expect the highest performance out of them, and certainly no employer would think if I treat my employees the way we’ve been treating federal employees that we could recruit and retain the best and the brightest to serve our country.

“Mr. Speaker, I urge the President to rescind his order. That is not to say executives in all of these agencies should not look in making sure we have the proper number of employees onboard and are acting efficiently and effectively and working hard to accomplish the objectives that we as a Congress, on behalf of the American people, have given them. That’s the issue.

“I urge my Republican friends in this House and in the Senate to speak out against it, and I urge all federal employees and their families to speak up in their communities across our country to remind their fellow Americans of the important work they do, and why this hiring freeze would be so harmful to our country.

“Giving one another respect in America is not political correctness. It is the way we ought to treat one another, and we ought to treat our public employees who work for us and our country with the same kind of respect that we would want for ourselves. Frankly, respect of one another was a victim in this last campaign, but it should not be and must not be the norm and I yield back the balance of my time.”