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Federal Diary: Freshman lawmaker, put in charge of workforce panel, says cuts are a must

Rep. Dennis A. Ross (R-Fla.), with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), family and colleagues during his swearing-in earlier this month, says that while he may be a newcomer to Congress, he and his committee staff have the experience needed to deal with federal worker issues.
Rep. Dennis A. Ross (R-Fla.), with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), family and colleagues during his swearing-in earlier this month, says that while he may be a newcomer to Congress, he and his committee staff have the experience needed to deal with federal worker issues. (Associated Press)

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 26, 2011; 1:00 AM

Let's begin with a cautionary tale on governmental efficiency and how not to impress the new chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the federal workplace.

Freshman Rep. Dennis A. Ross, a Florida Republican, was moving into his still-barren office in the Cannon building on Capitol Hill when workers came to install a television.

When Ross begins the story with "We had what we thought was a TV," it's a sure sign of bad news to come.

"They spent a day, had three crews come in here, all day, trying to get the thing hooked up," he continued. Then he delivered the punch line: "The last crew that came in finally said, 'This is not a TV, it's a monitor.' It took a day, three different crews . . . that's just a very small example of a lack of efficiency."

Of course, his unfortunate experience with getting a television installed may not say much beyond that particular encounter. But first impressions do matter. And the television story is one Ross will remember as he deals with critical issues that soon will come before his newly organized House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on the federal workforce, U.S. Postal Service and labor policy.

Asked about his top priorities, he doesn't hesitate: "to reduce the cost of the federal payroll, while still maintaining a very efficient and effective workforce." A few minutes later, he adds with emphasis: "We have got to cut. We've got to cut. We've got to reduce the federal workforce budget. We have to."

Like many House Republicans, Ross thinks the two-year pay freeze now imposed on federal workers might not be enough. Will more than two years be required? "Probably will," he said. "I say that just from a cursory review of what I have read."

Ross is a member of the anti-big-government Tea Party Caucus and the Republican Study Committee, which includes most House Republicans. The study committee wants to freeze federal pay for five years.

"I wouldn't say I endorse it. I'd say it's on the table," he said of the five-year plan. "Right now it would be speculation on my part to say we have to go to a five-year freeze."

In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Obama proposed to freeze all annual domestic spending for five years, a plan that could potentially affect the people the president referred to as "hardworking federal employees."

As for Ross, fixing government isn't the only thing that gets him going. He's really animated when talking about the 1968 Detroit Tigers team that won the World Series. (The Tigers hold spring training in Lakeland, Fla., which is in his district.)

Previously, Ross was a lawyer for Walt Disney World. He specialized in defending Disney against employees who filed workers' compensation claims.


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