Thursday, November 30, 2006
The President Addresses Congress
The Scene: The House chamber is bustling, guests being seated in the gallery, House and Senate members talking amongst themselves, all waiting for the moment that has called them together. The chamber door creaks open and the House cryer steps ceremoniously into the chamber.
He announces loudly: "Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States of America"!
The President walks down the center aisle greeting members on his way to the podium. The reception this year is decidedly less enthusiastic than past such events, and Mr. Bush spends the decided majority of time on the right side of the aisle. Senator Lieberman actually has to step into the aisle to plant a sloppy wet one on the bemused President, who replies with a pat on the Senators butt. The two look at each other in a seemingly passion filled moment, filled with sorrow and yearning, then break away.
Bush approaches the podium and even before he can raise his hand to acknowledge the gathered dignitaries, the polite applause fades away. The President turns from the podium and begins to speak loudly enough to be heard throughout the chamber:
"Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)"The Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate nod slightly, forcing smiles. The President turns back to the podium and commences, in his authoritative southern drawl.
"I am transmitting an" (slight pause to form the next word) "alternative plan for locality pay increases"A slight buzz runs through the chamber, the President pauses, glancing sharply upward as if searching for those who have rudely interrupted his discourse, and as the buzz dies down proceeds again.
"payable to civilian Federal employees covered by the General Schedule and certain other pay systems" (pause for dramatic effect) "in January 2007".The Republican half of the chamber erupts into wild applause. The camera pans to the Democratic side of the chamber to show stony faces on unmoving bodies... except for the lone standing ovation from that side of the aisle being provided with enthusiasm by Senator Lieberman.
As with all of his public speeches the President finishes each sentence with emphasis, saying 2007 as if he has ordained the creation of that year straight from the formless ether. When the applause from the Republicans and Lieberman dies down, President Bush continues in an affectation of southern homeliness.
"Under title 5, United States Code, civilian Federal employees covered by the GS and certain other pay systems would receive a two-part pay increase in January 2007:"Wild applause erupts from both sides of the chamber, and the gallery! The President is talking an issue this audience nearly to a member understand, and truly appreciate. After a solid minute of wild and raucous applause the chamber settles down... with a low buzz in the air, making the President have to raise his voice ever so slightly in order to command attention.
"(1) a 1.7 percent across-the-board adjustment in scheduled rates of basic pay derived from Employment Cost Index data on changes in the wages and salaries of private industry workers, and (2) a 6.9 percent locality pay adjustment based on Bureau of Labor Statistics' salary surveys of non-Federal employers in each locality pay area."
The Presidents normally choppy syntax is being severely challenged by this mumbo jumbo, and he makes a mental note to have a word with the speechwriter. As he speaks he looks intently at the teleprompter, giving the audience the impression that the President is carefully sizing up the audience as he talks. Periodically the President will look directly ahead into the camera, in order to finish a sentence that has been set to memory.
"According to the statutory formula, for Federal employees covered by the locality pay system, the overall average pay increase would be about 8.6 percent. The total Federal employee pay increase would cost about $8.8 billion in fiscal year 2007 alone."A ripple of laughter circles the room. Once $8.8 billion would have been considered real money. Nowadays $8.8 billion seems like a tremendous earmark to keep the natives happy. More than a few audience members begin to anticipate a Presidential announcement pushing for higher federal employee pay increase. What better way for the President to try to cozy up with the new congress?
"A national emergency, within the meaning of chapter 53 of title 5, has existed since September 11, 2001, that includes Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom."Wow! The President is linking a federal payroll pep talk with the war on terror. Bravo Mr. President, Bravo! The Republican side of the audience breaks into perfunctory applause while the Democratic side, with the notable exception of Senator Lieberman, sits in silence...
"The growth in Federal requirements is straining the Federal budget.Full statutory civilian pay increases costing $8.8 billion in 2007 alone would interfere with our Nation's ability to pursue the war on terrorism."Oh SNAP! No he did'n... he did NOT just throw the Federal pay increase into doubt in the name of the war on terror! The audience falls into dumbstruck silence, the veritable calm before the storm. The President senses the suddenly icy mood of the congregation and proceeds with steely resolve frosting his trademark Texas drawl.
"Such cost increases would threaten our efforts against terrorism or force deep cuts in discretionary spending or Federal employment to stay within budget."The silence of the audience is being replaced by a growing angry murmur and the President must raise his voice to be clearly understood. In raising his voice he suddenly gives the impression to impartial observers that he is irritated by the entire affair.
"Neither outcome is acceptable."The word acceptable is spit from the Presidents mouth, enunciated as one would spew the name Satan at a Pentecostal exorcism.
"Therefore, I have determined that a locality pay increase of 0.5 percent would be appropriate for GS and certain other employees in January 2007."A smattering of applause is drowned out by the swelling angry clamor. A quick glance at the previous years tax returns for those who are mutedly applauding the President would show proof that each applauder is a Republican multi millionaire.... and (of course) Lieberman. The President has to nearly shout to be heard over the din.
"Our national situation precludes granting larger locality pay increases at this time!"The final half of the last sentence is drowned out by indignant cries and general commotion in the chamber. Individual words from the gallery can be made out over the uproar... ugly words like impeach, and waterboard.
The President looks belligerently at the gathered dignitaries and waits for the hub bub to subside. Eventually the noise in the chamber has subsided to a low buzz and the President continues.
"Accordingly, I have determined that under the authority of section 5304a of title 5, United States Code, locality-based comparability payments for the locality pay areas in amounts set forth in the attached table shall become effective on the first day of the first applicable pay period beginning on or after January 1, 2007."In his haste to end this obviously uncomfortable scene the President has resorted to the staccato monotone style he uses for the weekly Saturday radio address to the nation. However he does not have the luxury of producers or 2nd takes, so the actual syntax and pronunciations of the past sentence are horribly mangled.
"When compared with the payments currently in effect, these comparability payments will increase the General Schedule payroll by 0.5 percent."A high pitched keening noise is heard prominently from the gallery. This is the sound of the reaction of congressional spouses calculating the hit this means on the 2007 household budget.
The President pauses and looks intently at the crowd. He clearly was thinking this line would draw applause, and is visibly taken aback by the lack thereof. With a glazed look, clearly uncomfortable at the turn of events the President continues.
"Finally, the law requires that I include in this report an assessment of the impact of my decision on the Government's ability to recruit and retain well-qualified employees. I do not believe this decision will materially affect our ability to continue to attract and retain a quality Federal workforce."Decorum in the chamber is now a forgotten memory. The audience seethes with hostility, Democrat and Republican alike, with the notable exception of Joe Lieberman, who looks decidedly uncomfortable. The President decides to bail out of an obviously doomed flight, and machine guns the end of his speech.
"TothecontrarysinceanypayraiseabovewhatIhave proposedwouldlikelybeunfundedagencieswould havetoabsorbtheadditionalcostandcouldhavetoThe Presidents face has taken on a nearly purple hue, so he stops to inhale deeply. He gives up on any pretense of personal outreach to the audience or the cameras as he buries his attention into the sheaf of papers on the podium.
freezehiringinordertopaythehigherratesMore overGSquitratescontinuetobeverylow (2.0percentonanannualbasis)wellbelowtheoverall average"quit"rateinprivate enterprise."
"ShouldtheneedarisetheGovernmenthasmany compensationtoolssuchasrecruitment bonusesretentionallowancesandspecial salaryratestomaintainthehighqualitywork forcethatservesourNationsoverywell."As the President is escorted out the back door by an obviously alarmed secret service, he is chased from the hall by the angry ruckus of the chamber audience, and the dissonant sound of one, ex Democrat(ic) senator from Connecticut applauding politely...
But, yeah, that was pretty funny.
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