|7:02 PM EDT||
Chris Van Hollen, D-MD 8th
Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
I am pleased to join with my colleagues Mr. Inslee and Mr. Jones in offering this amendment, and the issue here is really straightforward: Are we going to require the Department of Defense to comply with guidelines established by this House and this Congress, or are we going to allow them, one more time, to ignore the will of Congress and roll over us here in the House of Representatives?
Here is the situation. Back in 2004, this House passed the defense authorization provision that allowed the Defense Department to go out and set up a new personnel system, but we did it with certain guidelines. We wanted to provide the Department of Defense with greater flexibility, but we also wanted to ensure fairness to the employees.
Here is what happened. The DOD took the flexibility part, and they ignored the portions requiring fairness to employees. They ignored the provision that required, for example, an independent entity to arbitrate certain disputes between management and labor. They ignored the provisions that said you have to have a merit system protection board that has an independent judgment, instead of allowing the Defense Department to essentially overrule the decisions, at least on a preliminary basis, of
an independent merit system protection board. So they made a number of changes to the congressional intent.
As my colleague Mr. Inslee said, you do not have to take our word for it. Just listen to what a Federal judge said, and that is Judge Emmet Sullivan. He is the first person in the District of Columbia to have been appointed by three United States Presidents to three judicial positions, and he ruled in favor of the employees who brought a case and challenged the administration's decision on this. He said it was ``the antithesis of fairness'' the way DOD had set up its system and determined
that it was outside the scope of what the Congress had mandated.
Now, they have ruled. That ruling came down in February. We have had a Federal judge, therefore, stick up for the Congress. The question is, are we going to stick up for ourselves? Did we mean what we said back there? A Federal judge has looked at the law and said, clearly, the DOD provisions are outside the scope of what we intended. Anyone who takes a fair look at what this Congress said to the administration and to the guidelines that we had in setting up the system would reach the same conclusion.
Let us not once more roll over. A Federal judge has done the right thing. They said the administration should not roll over the will of Congress. Let us not allow them to do it. Let us make sure that we do not spend taxpayer money on a system that a Federal judge has said is outside the scope of what Congress intended.
So I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.