Ms. SLAUGHTER. Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of debate only, I yield the customary 30 minutes to the gentleman from California (Mr. Dreier). All time yielded during consideration of the rule is for debate only.
I yield myself such time as I may consume and also ask unanimous consent that all Members be given 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks on House Resolution 1284.
Mr. McGOVERN. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Madam Speaker, H. Res. 1277 provides a structured rule for consideration of H.R. 5781, the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2008. The resolution provides 1 hour of debate controlled by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and makes in order one of the two amendments submitted for consideration.
Madam Speaker, I rise today in strong support of this rule and of the underlying legislation, H.R. 5781, the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2008, which in my opinion is a sensible, compassionate bill that provides Federal employees with 4 weeks of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child.
Today the Federal Government does not offer any paid time off specifically to care for an infant or newly adopted child. If a Federal employee needs time to take care of the newest addition to their family, their only option for paid leave is to use their accrued sick days and vacation time.
This policy is unfair and disadvantageous to relatively new Federal employees or those who have experienced extended health problems. Having a policy that assumes Federal employees will not get sick or take vacation is unsound and needs to be rectified.
Paid parental leave for Federal workers is long overdue, and it is a shame that the Federal Government, our country's largest employer, has not provided it yet. The Federal Government ought to set the standard as a family-friendly workplace, and not fall behind.
And even more especially in this economic downturn, the Federal Government needs to step up and provide its families with paid leave. It is unconscionable, Madam Speaker, to ask parents to choose between their job and their new child in these harsh economic times.
With two full-time working parents being the standard nowadays, forcing families to lose one salary while they face astronomical food and energy prices is unacceptable.
Now some may claim that we are expanding the total amount of time a Federal employee may take off to care for a new child. Let me be clear, this bill does not expand the amount of leave currently available to Federal employees. This bill simply allows for 4 weeks of paid leave out of the 12 weeks that Federal employees currently receive under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The bill does not expand the total amount of time a person may take off under FMLA, and any claims to the contrary are
Madam Speaker, it is also important to note that this legislation will not affect the strength of our Nation's military. Since the Armed Forces set their own policies for leave, active duty soldiers are exempt from H.R. 5781. However, this legislation will provide 4 weeks of paid leave to the 400,000 civilian employees of the Department of Defense that serve with our armed forces at military bases across the country and around the world.
We depend on these mothers and fathers to make America safe, and providing them with 4 weeks of paid leave to care for their child is a much needed and much-deserved benefit.
Lastly, providing paid parental leave is a good recruitment tool for the Federal Government. In order to attract the best and the brightest and retain talent in our Federal workforce, Congress must provide important incentives like paid parental leave. I encourage my colleagues to stand up for families by supporting this rule and the underlying bill.
Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. SESSIONS. Madam Speaker, I want to thank my friend from Massachusetts for yielding me this time to discuss the proposed rule for consideration of the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act.
I rise in opposition to this so-called structured rule which makes in order no Republican amendments and the only amendment that it does allow is a Democrat manager's amendment, and to this legislation, which would provide government bureaucrats with benefits in excess of what four out of five hardworking private sector employees enjoy.
I disagree with the gentleman from Massachusetts, I think Federal Government work is very important to this country, but I believe that we do not need to extend benefits, to further ask for or to make ourselves available to as an incentive for hardworking people to come to work for the Federal Government. Thus, Madam Speaker, I am opposed to the underlying legislation.
Madam Speaker, as the father of two children, one of whom is a person with Down's syndrome and whose birth was more medically complicated than most children's, I understand the importance of families and their ability to deal with their problems. I return home each week to Dallas, Texas, after votes to be with my family, and families are important. I, like every other Member, understand the importance of family and how strong families are important to our country.
The question is not whether Congress should support families, but whether it makes sense when so many American families are already struggling with the high price of gas and other economic concerns to increase their tax burden to pay for this increased paid time off from work, especially in light of the fact that Federal workers don't really seem to need it or even be asking for it.
Currently, Federal Government employees between the ages of 20 and 45, those employees most likely to take advantage of this benefit expansion, have an average combined leave of over 7 weeks a year. But for even those workers with the least amount of Federal service, between 1 and 2 years, this program is duplicative because on average they already have a balance of 3.4 weeks of combined leave already at their disposal.
These generous paid leave policies already in place are why 88 percent of the 221,000 respondents to the 2006 Federal Human Capital Survey described themselves as ``very satisfied'' or ``satisfied'' with their paid leave for illness, including family care situations, for example what is talked about in this bill, childbirth, adoption or elderly care, and less than 5 percent described themselves as dissatisfied in any way. [Page: H5588]
What a shame we are trying to give away a benefit that taxpayers are going to pay for when it is not needed, and most of all, not even asked for.
Of course, creating this new, extra paid leave perk following the birth, adoption or fostering of a child, and include a provision that would allow the Office of Personnel Management to double the amount of paid leave to a total of 8 weeks, comes at a high cost. By the way, that 8 weeks may be asked for with no excuse or no reason necessary at all, simply by requesting it.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this new benefit in search of a problem would cost $850 million over 5 years. Pretty tough for a new majority that thinks that they want to have pay-as-you-go rules when now we are going to add a new $850 million worth of cost.
Madam Speaker, at a time when the average hardworking American families are already struggling and working more hours to fill their tanks because of this Democrat Congress's refusal to do anything constructive to address the high cost of energy, I don't believe it is appropriate for Congress to increase the paid leave of Federal bureaucrats beyond their already generous levels, and using taxpayer dollars.
As an alternative to today's legislation, the administration has proposed a fiscally responsible but functionally similar program: short-term disability insurance which would assist employees who need to use large amounts of time due to pregnancy, recovering from childbirth, accident or illness.
Because the majority of Federal employees, almost 60 percent, are not within the standard childbearing age, this proposal would be a better and more efficient fit for both employees and for the taxpayer and the Federal Government in dealing with the needs and costs associated with employees that need an extended period of time away for a number of reasons.
By providing Federal agencies with additional benefits that better meet the needs of the 21st century worker, the administration's short-term disability insurance proposal would safeguard Federal employees during a period of temporary inability to perform normal occupational duties while also safeguarding the pockets of the American taxpayer.
Despite the Office of Personnel Management providing this commonsense legislation proposal to Speaker Pelosi on March 4, 2008, today this Democrat-run House will only have the opportunity to vote on one functionally closed rule and the underlying legislation, with all of the other good ideas provided by Republicans completely shut out on this debate.
I encourage all of my colleagues to vote against this rule and the egregious underlying legislation.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. McGOVERN. Madam Speaker, I just want to respond by saying that Members on both sides of the aisle like to talk about family values all the time. Well, this is an effort that actually puts some real action behind those words. This is about helping families. I find it somehow puzzling that anybody would think this is a radical idea. And I would say to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, you know, you have messed up our economy, you have increased financial insecurity amongst
working families in this country, you have done everything you can to help the oil companies at the expense of average citizens who are now paying extraordinary prices at the gas tank. I mean, you have put working families at an extreme disadvantage.
This is an effort to provide a little bit of relief when somebody has a new baby or adopts a new child. Boy, to think that is a radical idea just to me defies reason.
At this time I would like to yield 4 minutes to the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. Maloney), the author of this legislation.
Mrs. MALONEY of New York. I thank the gentleman for his leadership on so many important issues and for supporting working families. This is the 21st century. Both the father and the mother have to work, and this is an important family friendly, family value legislation.
How many times have we heard the friends on the opposite side of the aisle talk about family values? Well, today we will have an opportunity to vote and do something to help families. Today we will take up my legislation, the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act. This bill will provide 4 weeks of paid leave to Federal employees when they have a new child or adopt a new child.
If we truly believe in the value of family, then we need to value the work that families do. This means that we need to stop asking parents to choose between a paycheck and caring for a new child. Unlike a generation ago, today both parents work outside the home, and both need time off from work when they have a new child, yet most do not have access to paid family leave.
By providing paid parental leave to Federal employees, H.R. 5781 establishes the Federal Government as a model employer. A recent study found that out of 173 countries, 169 countries offered guaranteed leave with income to women in connection with childbirth. This ties the United States with Swaziland and New Guinea in terms of what we are offering in paid leave for new families.
This landmark bill is the first to provide paid family leave for new parents. It signals our commitment to valuing our employees and their families. This bill is good for the Federal agencies, it is good for Federal employees, and it is cost effective.
The lack of paid family leave puts Federal agencies at a disadvantage when competing for the best and the brightest employees. Our Federal workforce is aging and many of our agencies are finding it difficult to recruit and retain younger workers.
Providing paid parental leave would encourage younger workers who may be considering having a family to stay with the Federal Government.
Paid parental leave is already offered by the largest and most profitable U.S. companies. My staff at the Joint Economic Committee found that the Federal Government lags far behind Fortune 100 companies in providing paid leave as part of their benefits package. Fortune 100 companies overwhelmingly offer new mothers paid leave lasting 6 to 8 weeks long.
Federal employees who become new parents have the option of using their accrued vacation time, some sick days only if they're sick or tapping into a leave bank. This may work for the lucky families who never get sick, never need a vacation and are happy to rely on the kindness of strangers, but for many this is a second-rate solution, since even the best prepared employees often face difficult choices when children need their care.
The only national policy that covers parental leave is the Family and Medical Leave Act which provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave and job protection. The Family and Medical Leave Act is important, but because it is unpaid, many, especially low wage or younger workers with limited savings, cannot afford to use it.
H.R. 5781 is cost-effective. And the Congressional Budget Office reports that it is PAYGO compliant.
In testimony in support of this bill, Daniel Beard, Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House of Representatives noted: ``This approach saves money. Employee morale is always greater when an employer treats employees with dignity, especially in times of crisis.'' I could not agree more with him.
Mrs. MALONEY of New York. Madam Speaker, I know that many of you are scratching your heads and wondering how this bill can be PAYGO neutral. It is easy to explain. The $190 million is the amount that the agencies currently save on salaries when Federal employees who have a new child take their unpaid leave, as they are entitled to under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
After we implement H.R. 5781, it will be up to the Federal agencies to implement this new benefit and whether they will ask for increased appropriations in the future.
But let's remember, right now Federal employees who have a child bear both the burden of going without pay during family and medical leave, as well as coping with their new family [Page: H5589]
expenses. This is an opportunity for us to put action behind our rhetoric on family values.
I urge strong bipartisan support. It is supported by TOM DAVIS on the other side of the aisle, the ranking member of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee which considered and reported out this bill.
And I thank Chairman Waxman and many others for their strong support.
Mr. SESSIONS. Madam Speaker, I really do appreciate the gentleman, my friend from Massachusetts' characterization of Republicans wrecking the economy and all these things, negative things that the Republicans have done at the expense of the American taxpayer.
And yet I think that the American public understands who balanced the budget back in 1997. It was the Republican-led Congress. It was the American people who said we ought to balance the budget.
When I first came to Congress some 12 years ago, I did this under the pretext of balancing the budget and, secondly, growing the economy, growing the economy through the creation of new jobs.
So how well did Republicans do? Let's see. Balanced the budget in 1997 because we forced it; 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001. In 2001 this country was struck by terrorists. That's right. We've not balanced the budget since. But what we have done during that period of time is created economic opportunity, economic opportunity for millions of Americans, created 5.3 million new jobs. That was the free enterprise system that did that, but it was done through the policies of this body, lowering taxes,
giving working families more money back home, taking 5 million people completely off the tax rolls so they could take care of themselves.
And now, here today what we see is a bigger government, a government that will cost almost a billion dollars more as a result of what we're doing here.
So it's amazing to see how my good friends on the other side come and talk about how irresponsible we were, and yet, what we've done, when Republicans led, was to create new jobs in this country, to make sure that we grew our economy.
I see nothing, nothing in the Democratic budget or the bills that they've passed that have created new jobs. As a matter of fact, the gentleman from Massachusetts referred to the Republicans and President Bush wrecking the economy.
In fact, what happened is, you can just look at it directly on a calendar. The day America began having economic problems was the day this new Democrat majority was elected; came in and promised higher taxes, promised the opportunity for a new direction, higher gas prices.
Then what are we told?
We're told by the leaders of the Democratic Party, America, you're going to have to change the way you live your life. This sounds a lot like the mid 1970s when we had President Carter around. We're going to have to change the way you live your life.
Government knows best. That's what we're here on the floor talking about today. Government knows best. We're going to give a group of very faithful Federal employees a new opportunity that will cost almost a billion dollars more to Federal employees. And yet, my colleagues will stand up and talk about Republicans ruining the economy.
Now that's not what ruins the economy. What ruins the economy is bigger government, bigger government, more spending and continuation of the assault on the investor in this country.
So the Republican Party, once again, is in favor of a balanced budget. We're not in favor of wrecking the economy.
The Republican Party is in favor of us allowing drilling to take place in this country. Some of my colleagues this morning talked about, you know, all these millions of acres. Well, there's not oil under all those millions of acres. Trust me. Energy exploration companies will go where the energy is.
And yet, now we're talking about adding almost a billion dollars' worth of new spending on the taxpayers that are already having trouble paying for their own gasoline. And we're going to talk about raising taxes. That is how you ruin the economy. That is how you lose jobs instead of job creation and balancing the budget.
The Republican Party does get it. We do recognize that there are tough times there. I go back every weekend. I've never missed a weekend going back home in 12 years. I do get it. I see people at the grocery store. I know how much the cost of a gallon of gasoline is. I'm not sure all the leaders of this House of Representatives do know that.
So we ought to be working to find ways to reduce cost, to make government more efficient, not to find a way to add overhead. Unfortunately, that's what this new Democrat majority is all about; raising taxes, more rules and regulation, making government more powerful by, in this instance, giving Federal employees who don't even ask for it, want it or need it, more time off, and have the taxpayer pay for it.
Madam Speaker, I do disagree with the legislation. And I will tell you that I think the American public, as they learn more about it during this debate, will come to the same conclusion.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. SESSIONS. Madam Speaker, I think what we have talked about today is an opportunity where the Republican Party presented an alternative to Speaker Pelosi, an alternative based upon a perception of a problem by the Democrat majority.
President Bush, last March, came to the table and said, let's use a free market approach that does allow families the opportunity, when they need time, to have that time and to utilize it. But let's let those individual families make their own decision, based upon disability insurance.
I understood a long time ago, from my previous job, when I had a very large team size of people that I worked with, that really, the American worker, at least where I was, was satisfied that they had a job and earned enough money to put food on the table, but also competed for family time and they needed time at home. That I understand.
But I encourage that in terms of being able to take time off. And having unpaid leave through a disability insurance program, is the right way to do this. So the Republican Party, through the President of the United States, brought this to Speaker Pelosi.
Instead, what we got was a billion-dollar answer to the taxpayer, a billion dollars more of spending, a billion dollars more of having the taxpayer have to pay things, and a billion dollars more, so the Republican Party comes to the table and says, why don't we try and balance our budget, rather than making government bigger and spending more money?
That's what we're doing here today. We are politely coming to the table in this constitutional body and saying, we disagree.
Since taking control of Congress in 2007, this Democrat Congress has totally been negligent in its responsibility to do anything constructive to address the domestic supply issues that have created the biggest problem that we have in America today, and that is energy and the cost of energy. Skyrocketing gas, diesel and energy costs are facing the American public today big time back home.
Meanwhile, we find that the Congress is trying to spend another billion dollars.
So today I urge my colleagues to vote with me to defeat the previous question so this House can finally consider real solutions to the energy costs.
If the previous question is defeated, I will move to amend the rule to allow for consideration of H.R. 2279, which would expand the American refinery capacity on closed military installations. That's right. We're suggesting that we will use Federal installations that have closed to have a better way to make sure that we have more gasoline available.
This bill was introduced by my dear friend, JOE PITTS of Pennsylvania, way [Page: H5590]
back in May of 2007, over a year ago. See, Republicans saw it a year ago as a problem, and came to the table with answers and questions about what we can do.
This legislation would reduce the price of gasoline by streamlining the refinery application process, and by requiring the President to open at least three closed military installations for the purpose of setting new and providing new, reliable American refineries.
Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to have the text of the amendment and extraneous material inserted into the Record prior to the vote on the previous question.
Mr. SESSIONS. I urge my colleagues to take a second look, to become a student, just as we're asking the American public, to look at who really is trying to address the issue of the cost of energy. We're asking the American public to look into, and to see who's really getting gouged. Who really is getting gouged?
And it's families back home. It's businesses that are trying to provide services. It is our airlines that are trying to make sure that we keep this economy going.
And what do we hear back from Washington, DC? Let's sue OPEC. Let's tax Big Oil. Let's stick it to Big Oil.
Well, in fact, what we ought to be saying is that energy companies are our friends. Energy companies need to and want to supply cost-effective and reliable opportunities for the American public to have gasoline without long lines.
What are the energy companies saying? They're saying, Please give us the opportunity to go where there is oil or the perception that there's oil and go looking for it and provide it to the American public. It's American security. It is the opportunity for America to be able to use its own resources.
Is this the final answer? Heck no. That's not the final answer. What we're trying to do is bridge us through this until the technologies of, as we know, the battery-operated car and other technologies are coming to fruition, but in the meantime, we should not be spending our hundreds of billions of dollars that this Democrat majority is allowing to happen because they're cutting off American energy to go overseas to keep building Dubai and the next cities and countries that are after that off
Madam Speaker, I really believe that the American public, when they understand, because they will become students of this issue, they will see that the opportunities for American energy, American security, American independence, and American jobs are what are on the line. And then they will look up and know that there's very consistent behavior. They will know which group of people in Washington, DC is really for them.
Today, we see where that same group of people, the United States Congress, is going to come together and say who is going to add another billion dollars to the price tag of running government, who is the same party that cuts off and won't even accept the good ideas of allowing more drilling here in the United States for American security. They're going to draw a conclusion. And that conclusion is going to be, they're going to see which group of people has the best ideas to empower job growth
and investment in this country.
Who are the people that really are aiming at balancing our budget? Who is the group of people that are trying to do every single thing that we can to protect this country? Madam Speaker, that is the Republican Party. The Republican Party is trying to make sure that the taxpayer of this country does not pay higher taxes. The Republican Party is trying to make sure that we have enough energy, American energy, available for consumers of this country. And we are standing up today saying we do not
believe adding almost a billion dollars worth of new spending for Federal employee benefits is the right thing to do right now.
So we're going to ask that our Members vote against this bill. We're going to ask that we do something by voting against this bill and voting for the motion to recommit.
Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. McGOVERN. Madam Speaker, I yield to the gentlelady from Texas (Ms. Jackson-Lee) for a unanimous consent request.
(Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas asked and was given permission to revise and extend her remarks.)