10:29 AM EST

James L. Oberstar, D-MN 8th

Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks on the bill, H.R. 4786, and to include extraneous material.

10:29 AM EST

James L. Oberstar, D-MN 8th

Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Speaker, we are here on both sides of the aisle this morning on a mission of equity, fairness, even mercy, on behalf of 1,922 career Federal employees of the U.S. Department of Transportation. They were unintended victims of a standoff in the other body, which resulted in a 2-day lapse in the authorization of funding for Federal highway, highway and motor carrier safety, and public transit programs.

On February 25, the House passed by voice vote H.R. 4691, the Temporary Extension Act of 2010. The bill extended the authorization for Federal surface transportation programs which otherwise were scheduled to expire on February 28.

The Senate's efforts to pass the bill and to clear it for signature by the President were stalled by the actions of one Senator from the other party. His repeated objections held up consideration past the February 28 deadline.

As a result of those objections, the authority to reimburse States, metropolitan regions, and public transit agencies for federally approved Highway Trust Fund expenditures lapsed. Several States, like Missouri, immediately cancelled bid openings. DOT's authority to pay administrative expenses for Federal employees from the Highway Trust Fund also lapsed.

These authorities were restored only when the Senator relented on the evening of March 2, allowing the Senate to consider the bill. The Senate passed it, and the President signed it that evening, but these 1,922 employees were collateral damage. They were doing their jobs, career professionals, and they just happened to be hit by this roadside bomb. It affected them in a very specific way. Let me toll the numbers:

1,307 employees of the Federal Highway Administration, 434 employees of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 143 employees of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and 38 employees of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration.

Well, in a few days, on March 16 to be exact, the DOT will process its payroll for the current March pay period. If Congress does not act to reinstate those career employees, those 1,922 public servants, through no fault of their own and having simply been doing their jobs as they have done for decades in many cases, will suffer a 20 percent pay cut in their biweekly paychecks. Now, this is not an abstraction. This is not a debating point. This is not something that, oh, we'll put this off, and

we'll think about it later.

At the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a long-term career secretary of NHTSA in Seattle, Washington normally would net $1,540 per paycheck, but because of the furlough, would be paid $1,150, a $390 cut. A $390 cut could affect your paying your mortgage, buying your weekly groceries, buying fuel for your car. Maybe it could even affect your sending a birthday card to a child or to a grandchild. It has a real effect, and I think the Senator on the other side just had no idea, no

interest, and no care about what the effects would be of his actions.

An entry-level program analyst, a GS-7 in Chicago, Illinois at NHTSA, normally would net $1,200 per paycheck in 2 weeks. Because of the furlough, he would be paid only $900. That's a $300 cut. If you're taking $900 home over 2 weeks, $300 out of that paycheck is serious money, a serious effect on your life, and it's a serious devaluation of appreciation for your service to the public.

These are career personnel. At any time, that's painful, but at this time, with this severe meltdown, economic recession, it's devastating. Miss a car payment; miss a tuition payment; miss part of your mortgage payment; miss your fuel bill; miss your electric bill. All of these things are the real-world consequences of one person's peak over some piece of this bill that had nothing to do with these personnel, with these careerists.

To the great credit of Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, a former colleague of ours in this body, he called and said, I am really concerned about these career personnel. We have to make them whole. They didn't do anything wrong. The department didn't do anything wrong. They were just standby victims of this action, and we will be able to restore their pay without any increase in budget. We will just shift dollars from one account to another.

The bill that we bring before you today does not require any new Federal funding. The Secretary, as I just described, will draw on administrative funding previously authorized and appropriated to finance the lost compensation for those personnel. It is the right thing to do. We need to do this. We have got to pass it by a unanimous voice vote.

I reserve the balance of my time.

10:36 AM EST

Howard Coble, R-NC 6th

Mr. COBLE. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to voice my strong support for H.R. 4786. The distinguished gentleman from Minnesota has pretty well covered this bill in detail. I will speak briefly to it.

Beginning at midnight on February 28 through March 2, all of the programs and the operations of the agencies funded under the Highway Trust Fund came to a halt because the extension of these programs was not passed by Congress, as the chairman has already pointed out. As a result, nearly 2,000 Department of Transportation employees were furloughed. This bill will ensure that those employees furloughed, at no fault of their own, will receive their normal compensation for that period of time.

Between February 28 and March 2, certain surface transportation activities were classified as ``essential,'' such as the Federal safety inspection of trucks and buses. This bill approves these activities as essential actions taken to save lives and to protect property, allowing the DOT employees who worked on those activities during the furlough to be paid.

I urge my colleagues to support the passage of H.R. 4786. I support the bill.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

10:38 AM EST

James L. Oberstar, D-MN 8th

Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Northern Virginia (Mr. Connolly). I wish to express my great appreciation and admiration of his concern for these Federal employees. Many Federal employees reside in his district. Even some of these 1,900 likely reside in the gentleman's district. I appreciate his coming forward to champion this bill.

10:41 AM EST

James L. Oberstar, D-MN 8th

Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Northern Virginia (Mr. Connolly). I wish to express my great appreciation and admiration of his concern for these Federal employees. Many Federal employees reside in his district. Even some of these 1,900 likely reside in the gentleman's district. I appreciate his coming forward to champion this bill.

10:42 AM EST

Jim McGovern, D-MA 3rd

Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, for the purposes of debate only, I yield the customary 30 minutes to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Lincoln Diaz-Balart). All time yielded during consideration of the rule is for debate only. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

GENERAL LEAVE

10:42 AM EST

James L. Oberstar, D-MN 8th

Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Speaker, in closing, I wish to express my great appreciation to Mr. Mica, the senior Republican on our committee and my partner and good friend and co-participant, in all of the works of our committee.

I share with him this tragic fact of the loss of pay for these 1,922 employees. He immediately said, We have to fix that. We have got to make it right by them, and he volunteered to cosponsor the legislation, which he has done.

I am delighted he designated the gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Speaker, who a great advocate for our committee, a great participant in all of our work and who is also a very good, fair and decent-minded Member.

Today, we will do something really good and decent. We can all go home and feel we have accomplished something useful in a very specific and direct fashion for 1,922 career professionals in transportation of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Again, I express admiration for Secretary LaHood for taking the initiative to bring this issue forward and to find a funding solution for it as well.

We have got to be able to pass this on a voice vote and to do good by these 1,922, and we need to set a good example for the other body as well.

I yield back the balance of my time.