Virginia Foxx in the News
Congresswoman Virginia Foxx is on a quest to roll back Obama's workplace rules
By Sean Higgins, Washington Examiner
This year, North Carolina Republican Virginia Foxx, 73, became the first woman to take up the gavel of the House Education and Workforce Committee since New Jersey Democrat Mary Teresa Norton in 1947.
She sat down with the Washington Examiner to discuss her agenda for the committee and her opinions on federal workplace policy, especially with respect to the Obama-era regulations she and her party want to roll back.
Washington Examiner: What are your plans for the Education and Workforce Committee for this Congress? What do you hope to get accomplished?
Foxx: Well, we have a lot to get accomplished. Our focus has been and will continue to be rolling back the bad rules and regulations made during the Obama administration. So we will focus on that, but we also have legislation that was passed in the last session that went to the Senate that hasn't gotten passed. We've got to work on that. We have the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act coming up. We are not sitting around twiddling our thumbs, that's for sure. We have got a lot on the agenda.
Washington Examiner: What regulations in particular from the last administration are you looking at in terms of rolling back?
Foxx: We passed three CRAs [Congressional Review Acts] in the committee, we have two on the floor today. We did blacklisting last week.
Washington Examiner: That was the federal contracting rule. [The rule required federal contractors making bids to disclose all prior and current investigations it had faced for labor law violations. Business groups opposed it, saying it allowed unions to effectively blacklist companies by making frivolous complaints.]
Foxx: Right, the contracting rules. I could just make you a list of them, but we are going to go through the [Obama regulations] systematically, as many of them as we possibly can, and taking whatever time the majority leader is willing to grant us on the floor in the Rules Committee, and we're going to roll them back.
Washington Examiner: What is your principal complaint with the prior administration's labor policy?
Foxx: Well, I believe in the free enterprise system. I also believe in protecting workers. I don't think any Republican doesn't want to protect workers. I don't think any employer doesn't want to protect workers and see that workers are treated fairly because the employers have huge investments in workers and they want to treat them right.
But what the Obama administration did is to tip the scales heavily in favor and do everything possible to give the unions more and more control over the workplace. I think that there ought to be a balance there instead of a tipping of the scales.
And ironically, the unions were at their lowest level in the private sector that they have ever been. Union membership is going down, down, down. And the Obama administration was single-handedly doing everything it could to put weights on the scales to help unions, and I think it has backfired.
Washington Examiner: Let's talk about one of the major things the prior administration did, which was the joint employers rule. Is that one of the things you are working on to roll back?
Foxx: Absolutely. We are, again, going to do everything we can. We are going to work with the unions. We are going to work with the administration. There are some things that can be done through executive order. There are some things that can be done through the Labor Department. There are things we can do legislatively.
The great things about the CRAs is that once they become law, then no administration in the future can write a rule that is substantially the same. And so we can prevent in the future, whether it is a Republican or a Democratic administration, from rewriting a bad rule.
Washington Examiner: What are your thoughts on the prior administration's change of the overtime rule?
Foxx: Again, that's one where I think what the Obama administration was trying to do backfired because it actually is going to hurt people more than it is going to help them. It really does hurt people who are trying to move up the ladder within an organization by forcing those people to work on a hourly basis and then not be considered supervisors. That hurts them.
In fact, many of the rules that the Obama administration put into effect, I think, hurt the workers more than they helped them.
Washington Examiner: You represent a district in North Carolina. Do you hear from people in your district about these rules and regulations?
Foxx: Absolutely. You know, from the time I first ran for the state Senate 20 years ago, people were saying to me that nothing good comes from too much government. Too much federal government. We have the federal government trying to run our lives from cradle to grave. So the people in my district are keenly aware of the fact that we have way too much federal government in particular, and they want us to reduce that load.
Washington Examiner: Should employers be concerned over the effort to roll back the Affordable Care Act? Even if it is a good idea in the long run, it is certainly going to be disruptive in the short run.
Foxx: Well, we don't know that. We don't know that. There are a lot of predictions. Look at what the Affordable Care Act did both in the short and long run since it was put into place. It was a lot more disruptive than I think our replacement will be. What we want to do is to bring sensible pricing to health insurance and to healthcare.
Obamacare is raising the price of health insurance premiums and the cost of deductibles. It has been terribly disruptive to the process and I think what we will do is to bring some sanity back to the process, some assurances. Look at what people have been going through now in terms of, again, the costs that they run into. People who were paying maybe $10,000 for health insurance and then their deductible goes up to $15,000 or $20,000. Average working people don't have that kind of money.
Washington Examiner: There's a bipartisan bill that's been introduced to change the Labor Department's official unemployment calculation, the U-3 number. Some people have suggested making it one of the other calculations the department releases, the U-5 or U-6 number, because that would be a more accurate representation of the unemployment picture. What do you think of that?
Foxx: I'm looking forward to us getting a labor secretary in place, and then our looking at the kind of things we ought to be doing. A chart came out today at conference that dispels the myths that the Obama administration tried to put out there about how wonderful the economy was doing under Obama.
Our labor force participation rate is down. It is at the lowest level it has been since, I think, 1972 or 1974. That is a message that I think is not getting out to the American people. Just looking at how many people are drawing unemployment or what the "unemployment rate" is isn't a fair measure, I think, of what the real story is. It is particularly scary to see the [low] percentage of working-age men in the workforce. Those numbers aren't being portrayed much in the press, and they need to be.
Washington Examiner: What are your thoughts of the outgoing labor secretary, Tom Perez?
Foxx: Mr. Perez was a very charming man, but he and I just disagreed on most issues. He was very nice, but his values and mine just didn't coincide very much.
Washington Examiner: You have called for the current general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, Richard Griffin, to step down. Why have you done that, and what, if any, reforms are needed for the National Labor Relations Board?
Foxx: You and I don't have enough time to talk about what reforms are needed for the NLRB and the National Labor Relations Act. So we need to do that another time.
But I really do think the NLRB general counsel's term should coincide with the terms of the president because I think the general counsel is trying to carry policies that don't comport with the policies and values of this administration and this Congress. I think he has, as we say in the South, "gone to meddlin'." I think he needs to leave.
Washington Examiner: What do you think of the $15 minimum wage movement?
Foxx: I tell people all of the time: The things that have made this country great are our Judeo-Christian beliefs, the rule of law and capitalism. And they work. They work. We are the most successful country in the world because of those things. When the government starts mandating what you should pay the people who work for you, it messes up the system.
Having run a small business myself, I know how tough it is to make a payroll. I know how most businesses are operating on very, very small margins. I know my husband and I used to lie awake at night worrying about where we were going to get some work, how we were going to keep our employees employed. The Left has this distorted point of view of people who run businesses, that somehow or other they are out there to exploit their employees. Nothing could be further from the truth.
People who run and own small businesses or even large businesses are constantly trying to keep their people employed and pay them a fair wage because it is in their best interests for them to do that.
So the government ought not to be telling the people who do this day in and day out what to pay as salaries. That has got to be left up to the marketplace.
Washington Examiner: During the campaign, President Trump did, at least on a couple of occasions, endorse a minimum wage above $10 an hour. I am assuming you would oppose that if it came up?
Foxx: Well, I'd like to see any specific proposals that might come from the president. Again, President Trump has been a successful businessman. I think he is quite well aware of what it takes. He obviously didn't run every kind of business, but a certain number of businesses and a certain type of business but with a lot of experience. So let's wait and see if he makes that proposal.
Washington Examiner: Have you thought of what the ideal level for the minimum wage ought to be, if there had to be one?
Foxx: No. Again, I don't think that is something the federal government ought to be doing.
Washington Examiner: Do you think there should be a national right to work law? That is something else that has been proposed by some in Congress.
Foxx: I am really pleased that I live in North Carolina, which is one of the strongest right to work states. I am glad to see the right to work movement growing across the country. I am a person who believes in federalism, so I want the states to do these things as much as they possibly can. I'd like to see where the movement goes at the state level. Then we'll talk about what might be done at the federal level.
Washington Examiner: Are we going to see anything on the Employee Rights Act in this Congress?
Foxx: I haven't gotten that far in planning our agenda.
Washington Examiner: You're the first woman to chair your committee in 70 years. How does that feel?
Foxx: Well, I don't think about it in those terms. I am also told that I am the first North Carolina Republican in the House to chair a committee. That's a distinction I wear very proudly. We've had a lot of wonderful North Carolinians serve in the House.
Again, I don't really think of it as being a woman. I am often the only woman or one of two or three in certain categories. I was the third woman to be a community college president in North Carolina. So it is not unusual to me to be in a small club.
Obviously, I'd like to see more women in positions where they are chairs or vice chairs or whatever. I am doing everything I can to recruit women, promote women and I have always done that all of my life. Obviously, we have room for lots more women, and I'd like to see that happen.