Statement ● Congress
For Immediate Release: 
March 16, 2017
Contact Info: 

Mariel Saez 202-225-3130

WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) gave remarks on the House Floor today in opposition to House Republicans’ bill that would strip the rights of Department of Veterans Affairs employees who serve veterans and their families. A video of his remarks and a transcript are below:

Click here to watch the video.

“I rise in opposition to this bill and adopt many of the premises that my friend, Mr. Walz, adopted. I also adopt the premise of Dr. Roe, who is a really dear friend of mine, that Tim Walz is the kind of guy you wouldn't mind riding across the country with. That's because he's honest, he's knowledgeable, and he's sincere. And frankly, I attribute all those same characteristics to Dr. Roe.

“But, Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this bill.  Everybody on this Floor agrees that our veterans deserve the best care possible. There's no debate about that. All of us in this House are focused on that goal. But this bill does nothing to meet this goal, in my view.

“This bill is part of, and I do not ascribe it to Dr. Roe, but a significantly long history of a partisan effort to scapegoat federal civil servants. It has been going on for decades, long before Dr. Roe got in it or Mr. Walz got in it.

“It is a follow-on to the dangerous hiring freeze, frankly, the Trump Administration imposed in January, and the repeated attempts over the last several years to extract more and more cuts from federal employees’ pay and benefits, which contributed over 150 billion dollars in cuts in pay and benefits over the last six years.

“Stripping away the rights of VA employees to work in a nonpartisan professional environment will not improve the care of our veterans and their families deserve and expect from the VA medical system.

“This bill, in my view, would undermine the collective bargaining rights – I am a very strong supporter of collective bargaining rights – of employees serving as doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and others in critical jobs, and it will disrupt the collaborative relationship between VA managers and employees that is essential to a successful workplace environment."

"Many years ago, almost 100 years ago, we adopted a civil service system. the premise of that system is we ought to have professional employees – not political employees, not political appointees, not subject to change because of the political winds that may be blowing one way or the other. This bill risks demoralizing those who have tirelessly been working to help our veterans reintegrate into civilian life across this country.

“Let me make it clear and I'm sure Dr. Roe is not surprised when I say this that I agree with Mr. Walz. If there's an employee not performing well, that employee ought not to be kept on. But this bill removes the process that was negotiated or could be negotiated in a collective bargaining way and if, by the way, it takes 300-plus days, then perhaps this legislation could deal with that to shorten it. There are ways that this could be dealt with that, in my view, will not undermine the civil service protections that are important not only for the employees but for the system itself.

"I have no doubt that there are measures that can be adopted to improve VA performance and effectively and fairly discipline employees who are engage in misconduct. We ought not to tolerate that. But this bill does not include them. I have not read Senator Isakson's bill, but perhaps that is closer, and I look forward to reviewing it with both the Chairman and the Ranking Member.

“This bill goes too far, shreds basic due process rights, in my view, and punishes even model employees. And let me say as an aside, when I say undermines basic due process rights, part of those rights are to have some time to get representation, to thoughtfully respond, to have some discovery as to what is going on here, what is being alleged, why is it being alleged, who is alleging it. This bill eviscerates that in some respects.

“I am proud to represent 62,000 federal employees in Maryland’s Fifth District, including many who work at the VA’s clinics in Charlotte Hall and in Camp Springs in the neighboring Fourth District.

“We ought to remember, Mr. Speaker, or Mr. Chairman, that when we undermine our federal workforce and our ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest, we undermine our government’s ability to serve the American people.  So this is just not about present employees, it’s about those who might consider employment in the future.

“Mr. Chairman, I hope we don't make the mistake of, in effect, throwing the baby out with the bath water. Let’s not take away the rights and protections of those who serve us so ably. But, yes, I agree with Dr. Roe and Ranking Member Walz. If there are those who are not serving us well, yes there ought to be a process, we ought to be fair, we ought to have time in which to respond. Not interminable time, so we can have an agency of which we can be proud and does what we all want, serve our veterans in a way that we would expect, demand, and that we are morally inclined to do. And I yield back the balance of my time.”