Catching up on news from last week, all four Iowans in the U.S. House supported a bill seeking to "freeze the pay of federal workers for the third year in a row" as well as the salaries for members of Congress.
President Barack Obama ordered a two-year pay freeze for most federal workers in December 2010. The ill-advised gesture was intended to show that the president was serious about cutting the federal deficit. In reality, savings from the pay freeze were a drop in the bucket, and middle-class federal workers paid the price for Obama’s posturing toward the austerity movement. To be more precise, civilian federal workers took the hit, because the pay freeze did not apply to military personnel.
Obama issued a new executive order in late December 2012 offering a whopping 0.5 percent raise to federal workers and members of Congress, beginning on March 27, 2013. That’s when the latest continuing spending resolution expires.
House Republicans offered H.R. 273 to eliminate the pay increase Obama ordered for federal employees and for members of Congress. The bill does not apply to military personnel, only to civilians. It passed easily on February 15 by 261 votes to 154 (roll call). Tom Latham (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04) were among the 218 House Republicans to vote yes; just 10 Republicans opposed the bill. Many House Democrats criticized the bill, pointing out that federal employees have already sacrificed for two years in a row to reduce the deficit. While 144 Democrats voted against the bill, 43 Democrats joined the Republican effort to halt the modest pay increase, including Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02).
Pete Kasperowicz reported for The Hill that the U.S. Senate is not likely to take up this bill. However, House Republicans will surely demand that the pay freeze be extended when a new continuing spending resolution is negotiated during the next six weeks.
In other Iowa Congressional news, Loebsack is still going to bat for the Rock Island Arsenal at every possible opportunity. Iowa’s 2011 redistricting plan added Scott County (containing the Iowa side of the Quad Cities) to the second Congressional district, and Loebsack has made the Rock Island Arsenal a focus of his work on the House Armed Services Committee, as well as a top priority whenever Congress considers a defense spending bill. On February 14, Loebsack’s office sent out a press release warning that the impending “sequestration” budget cuts will harm our military arsenals and depots:
Loebsack Discusses Impact of Sequestration on Arsenals and Depots
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack today questioned the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Deputy Secretary of Defense at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the impacts of sequestration on our military. Loebsack continued to express his opposition to letting the automatic, across the board spending cuts contained in sequestration take effect. He has concerns about the affects of sequestration on national security, including the operations at the Rock Island Arsenal and the Iowa Army Ammunition Plants. He questioned General Ray Odierno, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, about the impact of these arbitrary cuts on the Army’s arsenals and depots.
“I was opposed to these arbitrary, across the board cuts, known as sequestration, since they were first proposed last year. They do not make sense for our budget and they certainly do not make sense for our nation’s defenses. I strongly believe we must reduce the unsustainable deficit, but this is not the way to do it. I am greatly concerned about the long-term effects of sequestration on our readiness and the workforce at our nation’s arsenals and depots, including the Rock Island Arsenal and the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant. The organic industrial base and its workforce are critical to our readiness and ability to respond to a national security contingency. As a military parent, we have to ensure our troops serving overseas have the best equipment available to them. We cannot allow these cuts to take place,” said Loebsack.
Video of the discussion can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…
The following day, Loebsack’s office announced that he and Republican Representative Walter Jones of North Carolina will co-chair the House Military Depot, Arsenal, Ammunition Plant, and Industrial Facilities Caucus through the current two-year session of Congress. Here’s the February 15 press release:
Washington, D.C. – This week, Congressman Dave Loebsack (IA-2) and Congressman Walter B. Jones (NC-3) announce their co-chairmanship of the House Military Depot, Arsenal, Ammunition Plant, and Industrial Facilities Caucus for the 113th Congress. This bipartisan group of House members will be dedicated to policy issues that affect military industrial facilities, including aviation depots, arsenals, ammunition plants, shipyards, and energetic material production facilities. The caucus will also educate other members of Congress on matters of importance to the military depot and industrial facility community, as well as advocate for necessary changes in policy.
Congressman Loebsack represents Rock Island Arsenal and the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant. Rock Island Arsenal is home to the Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, the Department of Defense’s only multi-purpose and vertically integrated metal manufacturer. The Arsenal is also home to critical logistics, contracting, and mobilization commands, including Army Sustainment Command, Joint Munitions Command, Army Contracting Command-Rock Island, and First Army. The Iowa Army Ammunition Plant produces and delivers component assembly and medium and large caliber ammunition to US Joint Forces.
“I’m proud to co-chair the House Military Depot, Arsenal, Ammunition Plant, and Industrial Facilities Caucus with my friend, Congressman Jones (NC-03). I strongly believe that arsenals such as Rock Island Arsenal, ammunition plants like the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant, depots, and other organic industrial facilities are essential to our national security. As a military parent, I’m thankful for the workforce at our organic industrial facilities that work every day to put equipment in the hands of our troops. I look forward to continuing to partner with Congressman Jones and the Caucus membership to strongly advocate for our organic industrial facilities,” said Loebsack.
Congressman Jones represents Fleet Readiness Center East (FRC East), a military depot service provider located at Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station specializing in support of Marine aircraft, engines and components. FRC East is the only source of repair within the continental United States for many jet engines and rotary wing engines, as well as turbofan vectored thrust engines.
“As a longtime member and co-chair of the House Military Depot and Industrial Facilities Caucus, I have worked hard to ensure that the industrial capacity of our military depots to regenerate equipment is at a maximum. Military depots and other industrial facilities, like Fleet Reserve Center East, play a vital role in the health of our Armed Services and allow our fighting forces to continue their mission without delay. I look forward to working with Congressman Loebsack (IA-02) to create a stronger, more resilient system,” said Jones.