tv U.S. Senate 10242017 CSPAN October 24, 2017 8:15pm-10:30pm EDT
duckworth and senator udall. senator crapo is a good friend of mine. he's doing his duty and defending his position well, but no other republican senator, no supporter of this resolution. nobody wants to come down here and speak. why? because they don't want to be seen at home as defenders of wall street and they don't want to be defenders of the most powerful people in this country. so they stay in their offices quietly, come meekly on the floor, then they'll vote yes and go home and hope nobody really knows about it. they're not willing to give. senator crapo, whom i admire and respect greatly, he knows that. he means it. he's doing his duty as chairman of the banking committee. none of the rest of them want to join him. i think that tells you a whole lot. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. mr. franken: thank you, mr. president. i rise today to discuss the consumer financial protection bureau's recently finalized rule
to limit the use of predispute forced arbitration clauses in contracts for financial services and products. i strongly oppose the congressional review act resolution to dismantle this vital consumer protection. forced arbitration clauses force individuals to sign away their right to go to court as a condition of buying a product or service, and they allow corporate america to take advantage of a shadow justice system that is inherently biased toward the corporation, offers no meaningful appeals process. to put it bluntly, these clauses serve one purpose and one purpose alone. to help make sure the giant corporations still come out on top if they have wronged consumers. thankfully we've started to make
some progress in addressing forced arbitration. five years ago the consumer financial protection bureau began an intensive study of forced arbitration clauses in consumer financial services contracts for things like credit cards, savings accounts and private student loans. the study confirmed that forced arbitration stacks the deck against consumers and in favor of powerful corporations. of 341 reviewed cases of forced arbitration in which consumers made claims against financial institutions, the cfpb found that consumers obtained relief in just 32 disputes. 32 out of 341, or 9% of the time. by contrast, of the 244 cases of forced arbitration which
companies made claims against their customers, the companies obtained relief in 227 of them, or 93% of the time. and for the consumers who did obtain relief, the cfpb found that they won far less than they had claimed, while the companies had obtained relief that obtained relief recovered nearly the entirety of their claim. the study also demonstrated how giant financial institutions have learned to pair forced arbitration clauses with class action bans to shutter the courtroom doors on groups of individuals with small claims. once blocked from going to court as a class, most people drop their claims entirely because they lack the financial means or will to fight a corporation in
arbitration as an individual. where outcomes are seemingly predetermined in favor of the corporation. although millions of financial consumers are covered by forced arbitration clauses and class action waivers, the cfpb found on average only 25 consumers with claims of less than $1,000 pursue arbitration annually. think about that. that's just license for corporations to rip you off $20, $30 at a time. it's license. finally, forced arbitration is shrouded in secrecy, which shortchanges current and prospective customers of information that they, that may affect their financial
decisions. between confidentiality requirements contained in many forced arbitration agreements and the secretive nature of the arbitration proceeding itself, financial institutions use forced arbitration agreements to shield themselves from accountability to the courts and to the public eye. let's take the wells fargo scandal. just last year the public was shocked to learn that over the course of five years wells fargo employees had been incentivized to open millions of sham accounts in the names of wells fargo customers, including over 31,000 in my state of minnesota. and then the bank charged the
customers for those accounts without their permission. one reason that this fraudulent practice was able to continue for so many years is because the wells fargo's customer account agreement included and continued to, continues to include, yes, a forced arbitration clause. when consumers, when customers discovered and attempted to sue wells fargo for the sham accounts, the company forced them into arbitration. having successfully argued that any dispute arising from the sham account was covered by the arbitration agreement, the arbitration clause in the agreement for the real account. let me say that again. wells fargo successfully argued
that any dispute arising from the sham account was covered by the arbitration clause in the agreement for the real account. that's what we're voting on here if these claims, some of which date back to 2013, had been able to proceed to court rather than in private forced arbitration, other wells fargo customers would have been alerted to the wrongdoing and may have been able to save themselves and thousands of others from being ripped off and prevented damage to their credit. and that really matters to
people. a bad credit score can mean the difference between getting a mortgage and not getting a mortgage. getting a car loan or not. or even getting a job or not. fortunately a few months ago the cfpb issued a rule to ban financial institutions from preventing their customers from banding together to seek justice in a public court of law. this is good news for consumers who have been scammed by payday lenders, debt relief companies, or big banks like wells fargo. it's good news for our service members and veterans who wish to vindicate their rights under the
service members' civil relief act. and it's good news for the small businesses, community banks and credit unions who have been forced to compete with powerful corporations that are pocketing billions in stolen money from consumers. and let's be very clear about what the rule doesn't do. because i think there has been some misinformation put out there. the rule is not about banning arbitration altogether. and the rule does not prevent a consumer from pursuing arbitration if he or she wants to. assuming the corporation also wants to go to arbitration. instead the rule simply takes the forced out of forced
arbitration. and gives the consumers a real choice again. pursue claim of wrongdoing in arbitration or ban together with similarly harmed consumers to seek justice in a public court of law. now the big banks and financial institutions, including equifax, the massive credit bureau that put 143 million americans' private information at risk, are trying to kill the rule. and they're far too close to getting their way. as long as i've been in the senate, i've been fighting to end forced arbitration. i've always said my efforts are about reopening the courtroom doors because they should never
have been closed in the first place. i urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to see the cfpb's rule for exactly what it is. a commonsense way to restore transparency and accountability in our nation's financial system , and to level the field between wall street and consumers. we must allow the cfpb to move forward in implementing this critical consumer protection. i ask you to please join me in showing strong support for the cfpb's rule, knowing what is in the rule, knowing what this is
about, and then opposing the special interests who are attempting to take this rule away. thank you. to the senator from connecticut. the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. president. i'm honored to follow my colleague from minnesota who has made many of the same arguments very eloquently that my colleagues have made here as we approach a vote literally in the dead of night. there's a reason for the timing of this vote. my republican colleagues would much rather have it done past the deadlines for newspapers,
out of the public eye because most americans would be repulsed by the idea that they are losing fundamental rights. and what could be more fundamental than the right to go to court? that's the right that will be lost to countless americans if this vote in favor of senate resolution 47 succeeds tonight. it would literally repeal the consumer financial protection bureau's arbitration rule using the congressional review act. most americans will discover this re repugnant step when they go to their lawyer's office and state their grievance, their harm, their cause of action,
and their lawyer looks at a contract or some other piece of paper which has in fine print a forced arbitration clause. that forced arbitration clause in effect blocks the courthouse door. it denies them their day in court. it compels them to go before a group of people, often the majority, selected by the big company that they want to sue. at best, the result is to give them less to remedy a wrong against them than they suffer in harm. and often the lawyer will say, you know, this effort is going to cost you more than you will
gain. in good conscience, i must tell you that you won't recover as much as you have to pay me. and that is because those consumers cannot join together. in arbitration as they can in a class action. often it is because the costs of going to court individually, even if they win, will be more than they would gain in arbitration. and it is done in secret when their case is arbitrated. so others cannot be warned about a similar harm in a product or a service that they are about to purchase and suffer the same harm or wrong. so a vote in favor of this resolution is a vote in favor of
predatory lending. it is a vote in favor of wage theft. it is a vote in favor of sexual harassment. it is a vote in favor of medical malpractice. it is a vote in favor of denying millions of americans a fundamental right to a day in court. without the promise of justice from the courts, few consumers can even think about undertaking the costs of an attorney or take on the tremendous effort of bringing those individual actions against service providers, and the harm falls tragically, particularly on our veterans. i want to commend and thank holly petraeus for her profoundly significant work to alert our veterans and all of us to those harms. these abusive practices harm our
veterans more than others because they trust the abusive pitches that come at them as they are about to leave active duty or sometimes while they are still on active duty or shortly after they leave. they have no control over where they are deployed or even where they are based, but the con artists and the big corporation can come after them. they know where they are. they are targets of opportunity, and in one stunning example, just to give one, documented by "the new york times" not long ago, a sergeant in the army national guard who was serving in iraq said men came to his house and improperly repossessed his car, threatening his wife with jail time if she didn't give them the keys. appallingly, this sergeant
received no restitution. his case was discarded because his contract with the auto lender included a forced arbitration clause. that is the practical harm resulting from these clauses. wells fargo has been mentioned. as an example of how contracts in effect forced on people without their knowledge for accounts contracts for insurance that were put on their loans without their knowing, and equifax in the height of arrogance, the remedies offered to consumers had a forced arbitration clause as part of their acceptance of the remedy for the harm done by equifax
itself. you can't make this stuff up. you cannot create the fiction that matches this reality for abusive and harm to consumers. repealing this rule strips consumers of one of their only avenues of relief from careless negligence or a slow response to harm, and in the case of equifax, unfortunately, it probably will not be the last. the cfpb rule draws a line, a line in the sand. it puts consumers on a level playing field. it eliminates a provision that in law school was often identified as a contract of adhesion where one side has such power over the other that they
can dictate the terms inherently unfairly to the consumer. it demands that those consumers be treated fairly. repealing this rule would allow companies like equifax and wells fargo to have their run of the contracts in america repeat the harms that have caused such widespread consumer harm and let them off the hook. i urge my colleagues to reject this dangerous rollback of rights. it may be welcomed by some corporations, but in their hearts as well as their minds, the vast majority of companies want to do the right thing. the outliers are the ones supporting this rule. it would not eliminate
arbitration where both sides feel it is in their mutual interests. it would simply eliminate that fine print that enables those rip-off clauses that harm our veterans, people who fight for our fundamental rights, and one of those fundamental rights, access to justice, is barred by this resolution. i hope that my colleagues will reject it. enable consumers to hold financial institutions accountable and continue the work of the cfpb in making sure that consumers really receive a fair shake when they enter into a contract. i yield the floor to my
colleague from rhode island. the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: i was just asking to ask if my colleague would yield for a question. my distinguished colleague from connecticut is -- has been extraordinarily experienced and an able lawyer. he has been a united states attorney in connecticut. he has been for a long time his state's attorney general. he's argued, i think, more before the united states supreme court than perhaps anybody in modern history now in the united states senate, and one of his passions and one of the things that he focused on in law enforcement was consumer protection bringing bring entities that had done wrong to consumers to justice. and so i question for him, -- so my question for him, if i may
ask one, would be are there circumstances, do you have experience of circumstances in which very big and powerful entities, corporations or industries engage in misconduct, even fraud, in which the individual harm to each of the consumers is not very big. a bogus $30 fee, a bogus $100 surcharge, something like that, but multiplied by thousands or tens of thousands of customers, it becomes an enormously lucrative fraud for the institution involved. is that a situation that happens in real life, in your view, i ask my colleague? mr. blumenthal: i thank my distinguished colleague from rhode island for that very, very pertinent question. before i answer it, i want to thank him for his service as his
state's attorney general and his state's united states attorney, so he has as much experience as i do, and i know he appreciates that there are countless examples of exactly the kind of predicament that he has so well described. the harm to each individual may be measured in tens of dollars, but the harm nationally to consumers may be measured in millions of dollars. if each of those consumers is forced to arbitrate, the result at best would be a few dollars to each of them, and most of them will abandon the claim because the services of an attorney or even the time they have to tank to -- take to appear before a panel of arbitrators simply won't be
worth it. and the harm is not only them, as my friend and colleague from rhode island has implied so well. it is to the consumers of the future, because without the public knowledge about the defective product or the predatory lending or the sexual harassment, that same harm will happen again and again. and to take the topic of the day, sexual harassment, many of those employment clauses had the forced arbitration requirement that led to settlements and secrecy about them, and for years and years, that harm was repeated to women who suffered
because they were unaware of the harm about to befall them. it is a human tragedy, not just a financial tragedy that often befalls consumers because of those fine print arbitration clauses that consumers very often never even consider, because at a time that they signed the contract, they are not thinking about what can go wrong. they are buying a car or a product that seems just fine or they are entering into a new job or, as in the case of a veteran, they are signing up for a for-profit college, and they scarcely expect they will be in effect victims of these forced arbitration clauses. so the answer to my colleague's question, as he knows, because he is so expert himself is in
consumer protection a resounding yes. this rule is necessary to protect consumers against those kinds of harm which when added nationally can be tremendously costly to our nation as a whole. mr. whitehouse: if i may ask if the senator would yield for another question? mr. blumenthal: i would be happy to yield. mr. whitehouse: as i understand from your response to my last question, if you force the victims of low-dollar but multivictim fraud to have arbitration as their only remedy , you are way less likely to get consumers asserting their rights, and ultimately you may have low-dollar, multiconsumer frauds that remain very remiewn tiff for the -- remunitive for
the crooked outfit that is conducting the massive fraud. and i get your point that the incentives are such that it's very hard for an individual consumer to be willing to pursue that claim, and if there is no way to aggregate themselves together into a class action, then there is really no way to pursue that claim. but my question goes to one further -- the second question goes to one further point, which is the power of a court in a matter like that includes the power not just to award damages but to provide other relief to protect the company to quit the fraud, to give orders to people to clean up their act, to promise never to do it again, and so forth. i'm not aware of any arbitration panel that has ever been given that authority or that has ever used their limited power as
arbiters or arbitrators to try to influence the behavior of the corporation. is that not also a significant difference between an individual consumer being forced to go to an often stacked arbitration panel to pursue a claim that is so small it's not worth their money and also the simple power to provide the real remedy that the public seeks, as you so wisely said, to protect the next consumer? it's not just about the people who got their pockets picked, who paid the unreasonable fee, who got defrauded. it's about stopping it so that the future consumer is protected. and i am not familiar with arbitration panels having that power. mr. blumenthal: i appreciate my colleague's question. absolutely right. arbitration panels do not have the power to issue injunctions. it's that simple. they do not have the power to
grant injunctive relief, even in the worst of circumstances, and that is one of the reasons why forced arbitration clauses exist. there's no danger of a court ordering increased disclosure or fairer terms going forward or an end to disacceptive and misleading practices. when i was attorney general, and i see we have been joined with the senator from texas, senator cornyn, who was also an attorney general, knows often that we, as attorney general, insist on injunctive relief because we wanted to protect people going forward. that is a remedy that arbitration panels cannot afford and it is enormously
consequential. mr. whitehouse: and not infrequent in class action cases. mr. blumenthal: that's right. not infrequent in class action or individual cases where a plaintiff is willing to persist and takes it aspirins many -- as principle and will spend whatever it takes, if he or she has the resources, and some have done it as a matter of conscience to vindicate consumer rights even though their ultimate payback in monetary terms may not have actually been worth it, but injunctive relief is often the key to fairness and justice. mr. whitehouse: it is fair to say that the measure we're about to vote on will indisputably have the effect of shifting
enormous powers from consumers to corporations that engage in high valium but -- high volume but low dollar fraud? mr. blumenthal: that's right. that is the essence of what the effect will be today of this vote if it is to roll back this rule and, in effect, enhance the overweening power of companies and corporations that force consumers to engaged in arbitration that they do not know will be the result and cannot change because it is a fixed term, even though it's in the fine print, and eventually rips them off. i thank my colleague for those extraordinarily insightful questions and i yield the floor.
the presiding officer: the
democratic leader. mr. schumer: thank you, mr. president. i want to first thank my colleagues, particularly sherrod brown, our ranking member of the committee, and senators whitehouse, blumenthal, and franken and so many others who have spoken so eloquently on this issue. i don't think it's coincidence that many members on our side have spoken and very few on the other side. it is one of those instances where the powerful will get more powerful. everyone knows it and people are not out there beating their chests about this if they are trying to support it. it may be a little bit of being ashamed. now, this is what's happened here. we finally have an agency to protect the consumers against large institutions, most of which are good institutions, but some of which typically take
advantage of the average person. they do it in a whole variety of ways. we saw with equifax, the idea that they didn't have to protect people's information and were almost nonchalant about it. we su it with wells fargo -- we saw it with wells fargo where people came up with a scheme. but we see it all the time and the average consumer doesn't have the lawyers and the time and the ability to study what's happening. they don't understand the long contracts where they sign away their rights to go to court. they need a bank account, need a car loan, they need something, and, yes, their only resource in this case may be a class action suit, particularly if it's $20 or $30. you're not going to go to court individually, but if it's thousands of people, a trial
lawyer will make some money, yes, to protect those people. how horrible -- how horrible that people might have the ability to come together and hire a lawyer. what's happening in the last nine months -- we have a lot of people who are disaffected. many of the campaigns, including president trump campaign, understood that. but when president trump campaigned, he campaigned as a populist, against the powerful institutions, against the washington lobbyists, and said let's do something for average people. but once he got into office, he has embraced the hard right whose goal in most cases is just protect the powerful. i don't know. they've got this sort of drumbeat going on, poor innocent
people have too much power and big banks and big corporations don't have enough. let's go after unions even though incomes are down and only 6% of private america is unionized. let's go after them. they make the big corporations squirm. pay a benefit or pay some health care. how horrible. let's go after the trial lawyers. i don't always agree with their tactics. i voted against them on occasion, but let's go after them even though they are one of the few resources that -- recourses that average people have. hardly as reprehensible as an equifax or wells fargo in doing what they do. but people on the other hand somehow have this mythology because of the hard right and the machine and their think tanks and their media messaging -- foxx news -- fox
news, that somehow the powerful are getting a bad break in america and the average person has too much power. what is wrong? and i will say this. this will lead to people being even more disillusioned and more angry and more sour and will move away from what the american dream, ideal and optimism is. and my colleagues on the other side -- my dear friends, i like them, i really do -- wittingly or unwittingly are part of this movement. and it's a shame. it's a shame. community banks aren't beleaguered by these cases. they don't usually do this stuff. when i talk to community bankers who lobbied me on this, they said to me, basically, we're with the banking association, the big banks want this. this is not little banks. these are the wells fargos and
equifaxs, and we shouldn't do it. we shouldn't do it. i worry about this country, mr. president. i love this country. it's been so good to me, my family, my people. i still believe to this day is it what the founding fathers called it when they left constitution hall, god's noble experiment. we are one nation under god. god's. noble, we're a noble country. no one's had the ideals we have had for hundreds of years. we're an experiment. we keep evolving and changing and adapting, as we should. but when i see what's gone on in the last nine months, a combination of the president's appeal to lower instincts of people, to divisive instincts and the hard right machine which has too much power on the other side of the aisle, i worry.
i worry. i worry about the country. i worry about our standard of decency and honor. everyone heard senator flake speak today. it moved all of us. and it's a shame he's leaving this body because he's been a voice and a beacon. i didn't agree with him on most issues, as pretty obvious by our voting records, but he stood for the right thing. and i aso my colleagues -- and i say to my colleagues, somehow we're doing too many wrong things around here. we're trying to take away people's health care. we say we want better health care at lower costs. that's what the president says, but we put a bill on the floor that does the opposite, and we know it. we do it on taxes. we say we want to help the middle class and the tax bill dominantly helps the wealthy and
our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are afraid to say they are helping the wealthiest, they say they are creating jobs. most recently the great kansas experiment, the koch brothers own laboratory totally flopped. they say unions have too much power, and yet incomes in the middle class decline. there are abuses. there are abuses everywhere, but middle-class intersection decline -- middle-class incomes decline. there are several million fewer good-paying jobs in america today than 15 years ago, and in part that's because we -- the hard right learned how to destroy them and now with legal tactics on the absurd argument that the first amendment says you don't have to join a unit
yor or pay -- union or pay dues to a union. so this is just one of many issues where once again we're helping the powerful against the powerless. there's a political benefit, i understand. there's a fear if you go against these hard-right forces. i've heard it from my colleagues. but it's wrong for the country, and i wish -- and maybe a bell would ring -- there's lot of issues that we don't agree on, but some of these issues don't even have a basis in fact. that's why the floor is empty on the other side. i respect my dear friend. he's a good, good man in the flake mold. he has to be here all night and defend it, but he doesn't have too many others backing him up, and i think i know why. because deep down they know it's wrong. they can figure out there's an
abusive trial lawyers, but they still know it's wrong. they still knows it's wrong. so, mr. president, to sum it up, a yes vote is handing a get out of jail free card, or the equivalent, to wells fargo and equifax, it's that simple. a yes vote is saying that you believe that americans that get taken advantage of don't have the right to seek recourse. a yes vote tells financial institutions that they can continue to hose consumers without consequences or accountability because we know that average folks don't have the ability to go to court on their own and sue. we know that. everyone knows that. so if there are abuses, let's fix them, but don't totally take
away power from the -- from people. i hope maybe somebody, because the vote's close, it will take a long time to bring this bill to the floor because there were some people who wanted to stand up but they got ground down by this hard-right machine that always wants its way. they are doing great. corporate america is making more money than ever before, financial institutions are healthier than ever before, but it's not good enough. we want more. more is fine if it didn't come at the expense of average folks when somebody's abusive. the c.r.a. is a meat cleaver approach. those that have issues with this should try to address them with a scal -- scapel. i urge my colleagues other side
this debate, it's easy to be confused. you hear the democratic leader claiming this is about the people who have no power fighting against the most powerful institutions this country has to offer. and somehow trying to disadvantage them when in fact the opposite is true. you know, in situations like this, it's frequently a good thing to follow the money. follow the money. well, the reason why the consumer financial protection bureau wants to ban arbitration as a means of alternative dispute resolution is because the trial lawyers who benefit from the huge attorneys' fees awards don't like the idea that they are basically boxed out of that dispute resolution system.
whereas we know from the studies that have been done that consumers actually benefit from a cheaper, more efficient, more timely way to resolve disputes with financial institutions with whom they may have disagreements. back in the 1980's, i still remember when i was a district judge in san antonio, texas. warren burger, the chief justice to the united states supreme court, made the point that it was so expensive and so time-consuming for individual citizens to resolve their disputes in courts of law that we needed what he called, what we all call an alternative dispute resolution system that was able to resolve these disputes in a for timely, more cost-effective sort of way, recognizing that very few people could afford to pay a lawyer an hourly fee or even a contingent
fee for protracted civil litigation. and so that basically ordinary consumers were frozen out of the dispute resolution process and denied their day in court. well, that system actually worked pretty well, including arbitration which according to a federal statute, federal arbitration act is an impartial tribunal that basically decides these disputes in an efficient, cost-effective sort of way. and in fact, we know from the studies that have been done that consumers actually benefit more from arbitration than they do as a member of a class and a class action lawsuit where consumers typically get pennies on the dollar and the class counsel, the lawyers involved perhaps are awarded millions of dollars.
you have to ask the question: whose benefit is that for? is it really for the consumer or is it for the lawyers? and i think the answer is pretty clear. it's not for the consumer. so when i hear our friends across the aisle, the distinguished democratic leader, cry crocodile tears for consumers, really those are for the class action lawyers that are not part of the arbitration process. and i think it's really important to make that point that every single study that's been done show that consumers actually benefit from arbitration compared to ordinary litigation. not everybody can afford to be o.j. simpson and to hire the very best lawyers in america and to try a case for weeks on end at a cost of millions of dollars. it just simply doesn't work that
way for most people. so this is a very efficient, cost-effective, fair way to resolve those disputes in a way that consumers benefit. and i don't understand honestly why our colleagues across the aisle, except for their desire to demonize banks and large financial institutions. but it's not just large banks and financial institutions. it's community banks, because we're talking about contractual arbitration provisions which allow the consumers to benefit from a means to resolve disputes with their local community bank. and they don't often involve huge amounts of money. and so lawyers aren't typically not going to be interested in claims that don't involve much money which is why most often when they do get litigated it's in the context of class
actions, where they aggregate all of these claims for thousands of people. and then as we know, typically they enter some sort of settlement where the consumers get a coupon, frequently no money but a coupon, and the class lawyers reap millions of dollars. so when our colleagues across the aisle want to act like, act like they have the better part of this argument when actually they're arguing on behalf of one of the narrowest, wealthiest special interests today, and that's the trial lawyers, and they want to act like they are a friend to the consumer when they're actually arguing to the detriment of the consumer because the consumer benefits from this less expensive, more efficient, more timely resolution of disputes for
financial institutions through contractual arbitration. and the fact that the consumer financial protection bureau, which is sort of a, an anomaly in our system, it's accountable to no one. it's not susceptible of oversight by congress because of the way it was created. it isn't even funded by appropriations of congress as other government agencies are. so it's really a rogue agency in so many ways. not accountable to the american people, not subject to the oversight of congress, not dependent upon congress for the appropriations to basically do their work. and so when they overreach like this -- and essentially outlaw this efficient, cost-effective, impartial way of resolving civil disputes, this is perhaps the greatest
demonstration of the abuse that was wrought by the creation of the consumer financial protection bureau in the first place. and when consumers benefit and trial lawyers do not, i don't know how you can justify the arguments on the other side except to say they are the party of the trial bar. and they really don't care about the consumer because they realize consumers will end up with pennies on the dollar and that they would actually be better off using the arbitration provisions in these contracts, subject to the federal arbitration act. this actually is a federal law which mandates the procedures by which these arbitration panels are created. it's not as if the banks get to choose who sits on the arbitration panel. it's not as if they get to pick the judge in the case. these are nonpartisan
arbitrators who will decide the facts and law and let the chips fall where they may. i, for one, am not buying the crocodile tears of our friends across the aisle. they're not arguing in favor of the consumer. they're arguing on behalf of of the friel bar that gets rich in these cases. but it's not just the fact that these hand full of cases where the lawyers get rich solve the problem because there are many people who have legitimate disputes that need to be resolved where the lawyers simply turn away and say, we'll, that case won't get me enough money to justify my involvement in the case so guess what? you're out of luck. good luck finding a lawyer to litigate your case for $100 or $200. you're just not going to get a chance to do that.
and so if a class action lawyer won't take the case, you are out of luck. and i guess our friends across the aisle don't care. and the fact that they could get recourse through arbitration using the federal arbitration act from an impartial panel that will decide what the facts are and grant an award without having to go to the expense of time associated with ordinary litigation. they simply don't really care about that. so i would say not withstanding the dystopian view of our friends across the aisle that somehow this is a great conspiracy against the forgotten man and woman in our country, the opposite is actually true. what they're trying to do is advocate for the rich and the powerful, the trial lawyers in america, and against the best interests of the consumer who
benefits from this contractual arbitration provision. so i hope our colleagues won't be persuaded by the arguments on the other side because there's just simply no factual basis for them. and i hope that in a little while here when we vote on this congressional resolution of disapproval that we will have a solid vote disproving -- disap proving on this ban to resolve disputes because a no vote basically is a vote on behalf of the rich and powerful, the trial lawyers in america who get enriched by the status quo in the absence of an alternative dispute resolution system. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts. ms. warren: thank you, mr. president. tonight we're on the verge of
passing a republican resolution to make it easier for financial institutions to cheat people. earlier this year the consumer financial protection bureau issued a rule that prohibits financial companies from forcing you to sign an arbitration clause that makes you forfeit your right to take a bank to court. so if this proposal passes, that rule will just disappear. now, there are no real human beings who think it should be easier for financial institutions to steal money from you and get away with it. bank lobbyists are the only people asking congress to reverse this rule, but let's face it, wall street is pretty powerful around here. the question the american people should be asking right now is are they powerful enough to win tonight? the reason this vote is happening so late at night is because we are right on the verge of blocking it. the american people have watched as wells fargo cheated its
customers, then used arbitration clauses to try to escape liability. they have watched as equifax negligently allowed hackers to steal personal financial information of more than half of all american adults and then used arbitration clauses to try to escape accountability. politicians have been watching it, too. and while many of their eyes might be blinded by dollar signs, it may not be enough. there is bipartisan opposition to the senate turning financial institutions loose to worshippeddal their own customers. right now, our best guess is that it's 50-50, and that means that vice president mike pence is on his way to the senate to cast a tie-breaking vote. if we can't peel off one more republican, mike pence will decide whether or not consumers can hold banks like wells fargo accountable when they cheat
their customers. now, everyone assumes that mike pence will side with the big banks, and i have just one simple question -- why? president trump, mike pence works for you. his job is to cast his vote the way that you tell him to cast it. we spent more than a year listening to you, first as a candidate, then as a president, and you have gone on and on and on about how strong you are, about tough you are, and about how you are going to stand up to wall street. well, this bill is a giant wet kiss to wall street. bank lobbyists are crawling all over this place, begging congress to vote and make it easier for them to cheat their customers. president trump, are you really going to let mike pence cast a tie-breaking vote to hand big
banks their biggest win in congress since they crashed the economy nine years ago? now, i follow the news stories about how tough you are, mr. president, standing up to mitch mcconnell, paul ryan and the republican party. well, this is a top priority for them, mr. president. so do you work for mitch mcconnell now? is that the deal? are you going to roll over and hurt millions of people in this country because mitch mcconnell tells you to? i keep hearing that you and steve bannon are going to remake the republican party into a party that stands up to wall street. steve bannon works with the white supremacist, but, hey, he says he is going to help you drain the swamp, right? well, where is the all-powerful steve bannon now? where is he to tell mike pence and donald trump that they don't
work for mitch mcconnell? every organization, all the ones that represent actual human beings, not banks, want this rule to be saved. none more than the organizations that represent our veterans and our service members. do you know why that is? mr. president, it's because they are sick and tired of being cheated by banks. they are sick and tired of politicians who say thank you for your service and then turn around and vote to make it harder for them to build a future for themselves and their families. the military coalition which represents more than 5.5 million veterans and service members supports the cfpb rule, because -- and i'm going to vote it -- our nation's veterans should not be deprived of the constitutional rights and freedoms that they put their
lives on the line to protect, including the right to have their claims heard in a trial. the coalition says that, quote, forced arbitration is an un-american system wherein service members' claims against a corporation are funneled into a rigged, secretive system, in which all the rules, including the choice of arbitrator, are picked by the corporation. and they go on to warn that the catastrophic consequences of these forced arbitration clauses pose for our all-voluntary military, fighting forces morale and our national security are vital reasons to preserve this rule. we see all the sweets, mr. president. we have seen you go on and on about how disrespectful it is to our veterans and their families that some football players don't
want to stand for the national anthem. well, all three of my brothers served in the military, mr. president. do you know what's disrespectful of our veterans and their families? passing laws that hurt our veterans and their families, casting tie-breaking votes for laws that are opposed by the american legion, by the military coalition, by the vietnam veterans of america, by amvets, by the association of the united states navy, by the military order of the purple heart, by the iraq and afghanistan veterans of america, by the military child education coalition, by the military veterans coalition of indiana, by the national association of black veterans, by the national guard association of the united states, by the national military
family association, by the noncommissioned officers association, by the reserve officers association, by the retired enlisted association, by the veterans for common sense, by the veterans' education success, by veterans' legal institute, by vet jobs, and by vet first. president trump, this is up to you. don't do this. don't let mike pence cast the deciding vote to hand a huge victory to wall street. if you do, you should be prepared for the consequences. veterans know when a politician is all talk. they know the difference between a cheap pat on the back and a real punch to the gut, and they won't forget what happens here today. and for steve bannon, if this
really happens today and mike pence casts the deciding vote to make it easier for financial institutions to cheat people, do you want to remake the republican party in your image? do you want to launch primary challenges against republicans who roll over to wall street? do you want to go after the weak and the spineless, the d.c. wall street swamp? the politicians who won't stand up to mitch mcconnell and all the globalists who think cash matters more than people. if mike pence votes for this monstrosity, why don't you primary donald trump? and when you're finished with him, why don't you go after mike pence? steve bannon, put your fat wad of billionaire mercer money where your mouth is or stop pretending that you're anything other than what you are. with the remainder of my time, i
would like to read letters and op-eds from veterans begging congress not to repeal this rule. the first is from colonel lee f.lang. he is u.s. marine retired with 30 years of service, now serving as arizona chapter president of the military officers association of america. he titles his letter, i serve to protect our rights. don't let equifax take them away. as a career marine, i serve to protect the rights of americans as guaranteed by the constitution and its amendments. among them is the seventh amendment, right to trial by jury in civil cases, a right dismissed by companies like equifax and now under siege in congress. forced arbitration rip-off clauses buried in the fine print of bank accounts, auto loans,
and other contracts strip service members and veterans of their day in court when big banks and other financial institutions violate the law. instead, people must face companies alone and cannot join together in a rigged, secretive process where the banks and lenders often choose the arbitrator. men and women in uniform are surely among the 145.5 million people impacted by the massive data breach of sensitive personal information held by the credit reporting agency equifax, and among those whose access to the courts was stripped in equifax's fine print until the company had to relent. service members from sergeant charles beard to army soldier preseasonnities martin -- prentice martin bowen have also
had their rights limited by forced arbitration. wells fargo continues to use forced arbitration to deny victims of the fake account scandal access to the justice system. arizona and southern california were the epicenter of the wells fargo scandal, and wells fargo is arizona's largest bank. some of the state's more than 500,000 veterans were certainly caught up in its effects. wells fargo has been caught, but it is not likely the only financial institution guilty of illegal practices. the department of defense has long pushed for service members' full legal recourse against unscrupulous lenders, and members now have some protection against forced arbitration clauses through the military lending act. but the n.l.a. protections don't apply to auto loans, to rights under the service members civil relief act, to bank account fraud like the wells fargo
scandal, or to veterans. the consumer financial protection bureau, cfpb, and its office of service member affairs have worked to protect those who serve by issuing a rule restoring our seventh amendment rights and limiting the use of forced arbitration. the cfpb rule enhances military consumer protections in the m.l.a., restoring the right of service members and veterans to seek civil justice, including class action suits for illegal acts. for that reason, the military coalition, a national consortium of uniformed services and veterans' organizations representing 5.5 million current and former service members and their families and survivors urged congress to let the cfpb rule go into effect. the american legion has done the same.
the general public, including 64% of republicans and 74% of democrats also supports the rule to restore our day in court. but despite this outpouring of support, the u.s. house of representatives has voted to block the rule from going into effect. wall street lobbyists are pushing congress to leave forced arbitration as the only solution, severely limiting the recourse of service members and all americans. for example, only four arbitrations have been filed against wells fargo in arizona, despite up to 1,778,972 -- 178,974 or more fake accounts in the state. that's four arbitrations against
178,972 or more fake accounts in the state. we can't allow forced arbitration to be used as a tool to block accountability. the senate, armed with lessons from the equifax and wells fargo scandals, can still reverse course. our senators must put the interests of active duty service members, veterans, and american consumers ahead of wall street lobbyists and reject efforts to take away our day in court. and that was from colonel lee lang, u.s. marine corps retired, chapter president of the arizona chapter of the military officers association of america and president of the southwest veterans chamber of commerce. i have another one i'd like to read and this is from the chairman of the alaska veterans foundation.
it's titled, forced arbitration and a right worth fighting for by rick datage. as a veteran i'm proud to protect the freedoms guarded for us by our founders. another guarantor of those liberties is our right to our day in court. one that is especially vital to our service members who are so often taken advantage of by financial institutions. today the right to our day in court is in danger because of actions under consideration by the united states senate on the issue of powerful banks and forced arbitration. james madison, one of the principal drafters of the bill of rights, wrote that trial by jury and civil cases is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the
preexistent rights of nature. the founders saw this right to be heard before a jury of our piers as -- peers as so vital that they enshrined it in the seventh amendment. this is not only a safeguard from arbitrary perversion of the law, but also a means to ensure equal access to justice for the powerful and the powerless alike and for citizens to signal and set acceptable standards of conduct in our society. why bring all this up now? because the united states senate is considering legislation to roll back a rule recently finalized by the consumer financial protection bureau to limit forced arbitration clauses bearing deep -- buried deep in financial agreements. these forced arbitration agreements are found in the fine print of financial agreements
signed by tens of millions of every day americans with wall street banks covering everything from credit cards and checking accounts to prepaid cards and pay day loan and they require consumers to take disputes over bank wrongdoing not to courts overseen by judges, but to arbitrators chosen by the financial institutions under their own rules. arbitration hearings are held in private with no public record, no meaningful rules, not even a rule that arbitrators abide by -- to block class action suits where the ability of consumers to ban together helps balance the extraordinary legal and financial resources at bank's disposal. the wells fargo scandals -- yes,
there's more than one -- offer a prime example of how financial institutions used forced arbitration to rip off consumers. the bank, with 48 branches in alaska opened nearly 6,000 of its infamous fake accounts here on the last frontier. a california judge ordered the financial giant to repay customers more than $2300 -- more than $200 million for manipulating accounts for overdraft fees. recently nearly a quarter of a million wells fargo car loan customers were din ged for nonpayment of insurance policies illegally taken out for them and almost 25,000 had vehicles repossessed. and most infuriating, wells fargo has been find millions for foreclosing on service members or repossessing their cars in
violation of the service member's civil relief act. in every case wells has used arbitration to shield itself from accountability. since 2009, only 215 consumers nationwide have filed arbitrations against wells fargo. not one in alaska, and the reason, arbitration is often too expensive for a single consumer with a small claim. and that's why the cfpb rule is so important and why the big banks washington lobbyists are working overtime to have it overturned. the regulation will ensure all alaskans retain the right to their day in court as part of class actions and uphold the service members' civil relief act to protect the legal rights
of the men and women fighting for this country. as congress considers whether to preserve this critical protection for every day consumers, and especially for our service members, our alaskan republican senators, lisa murkowski and dan sullivan, need to remember equal access to justice is not a republican or democratic idea, it is an american right as old as our repolitic itself -- republic itself and it is worth fighting for. rick datage serves as chairman of the alaskan veterans foundation. from robert mitchell, a marine corps veteran. forced arbitration is un-american. this is from the arkansas democrat gazette. i am a proud marine corps veteran. abroad i joined with my fellow marines in united pursuit of
justice and rights. at home, i fight for them and other u.s. military members to be treated fairly and with dignity in their financial affairs. i am disappointed by the actions of my u.s. senator tom cotton who is seeking to roll back a recent rule that restores service members and other americans legal rights in the financial marketplace. so often military members are unfairly targeted by aggressive lenders, abusive debt collectors, reckless credit reporting bureaus, and discriminating employers. so i devote my time to help them enforce their rights under federal and state laws that grant them remedies and other ways to hold bad actors accountable when they flout these laws. he goes on to talk about what happens in the fine print and these contracts and how it is that veterans and active duty
service members are repeatedly cheated. his closing remarks are, unfortunately, although the rule restores the rights of active duty service members and american civilians, it has become controversial in washington because the financial services industry opposes it. for several years now financial institutions have been able to use their strict terms to wipe away individuals' rights an essentially ignore legal complaints. but senator cotton and our representatives in congress must take the opportunity to look beyond the lobbyists and toward the experiences of our military members and the u.s. constitution. they should support, not abandon, a rule that simply restores our traditions.
i'll just note and enter into the record from the military coalition, a consortium of uniformed veterans organizations representing more than 5.5 million current and former service members and their families an survivors -- and survivors who also wrote in strong support of protecting the consumer financial protection bureau arbitration rule. they conclude, our nation's veterans should not be deprived of the constitutional rights and freedoms that they put their lives on the line to protect, including the right to have their claims heard by a trial by jury when their rights are violated. the catastrophic consequences of these clauses pose for our all-voluntary military fighting forces moral and our national security are vital reasons for this rule to take effect -- affect immediately.
we also have a resolution passed by the 99th national convention of the american legion asking congress not to roll back the arbitration rule put forward by the cfpb and we have a letter from more than 30 veterans associations begging this congress, please not to get rid of the forced arbitration clause that's been put forward by the consumer financial protection bureau. now, it really comes down to this. we have heard from veterans' groups, from individual veterans, active duty military, and from banks, and the banks are the ones saying, roll back this rule and the veterans and active duty military are asking us not to. the decision hangs in the balance tonight and i urge my colleagues, just once, don't stand up with the big bangs,
stand up -- banks, stand up with the veterans. i urge the president of the united states, show us what you're made of. stand up with america's veterans. stand up to wall street. don't just roll over for wall street. be there for the people who count on you. be there for our veterans in active duty military. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from idaho. mr. crapo: for everybody's information, i'm going to speak for two or three minutes and then yield back our time and then senator brown will do the same and then we will proceed to a vote. i just want to make it clear what we're talking about here. you heard a lot of talk tonight about how this is trying to stop the forced arbitration. you heard that a lot. let's make it really clear what
the debate is about. using the cfpb's own study -- i am quoting the cfpb now. the clear majority of the arbitration clauses within our purview specifically recognize and allow small claims courts as an alternative to arbitration. so this notion that we're here fighting tonight about whether people who have small claims don't have any -- any outlet except arbitration is simply false. that is a false orchestration of what the argument is. what is the argument? well, why don't we look at the rule and see what the rule says again. now i am quoting specifically from the cfpb rule. it prohibits a company from relying in any way -- it doesn't say forced arbitration -- from relying in any way on a predispute arbitration agreement with respect to any aspect of a class action.
it goes on and actually the rule -- the rule actually states specific language that people have to put in their contracts. what is that language? this rule requires people to agree that we -- neither we nor anyone else will rely on this agreement to stop you from being part of a class action in court. so the issue here, mr. president, is not forced arbitration, even existing arbitration clauses allow alternatives. the issue here is the cfpb's effort to force dispute resolution into class action litigation. some have talked here tonight about how we're trying to stop access to the courtroom. well, first of all, i think that argument is belied again by the cfpb's own study that explicitly states that no class actions filed during the time period that the cfpb studied even went to trial.
so this argument falls on its own face. meanwhile let's look again at what the difference between arbitration and forced class actions does. in arbitration, a decision on the merits was reached in 32% of the disputes filed. whereas i indicated zero of the class action cases even went to trial. in addition, according to the cfpb's own study, most arbitration agreements and consumer financial contracts contain a small claims carve out. it is difficult to make apples to apples comparisons, but "the wall street journal"'s editorial board made this observation of the class actions studied most were withdrawn by the plaintiffs or settled out of class. i will conclude with the numbers
we have talked about many times tonight. what is the comparison between arbitration and class action litigation, and that is the issue tonight. what is the comparison? the average recovery for the consumer in a class action case is $32. the average recovery in an arbitration is $5,389. it takes two years for the class action to take place, five months for the arbitration. in 12% of the class action matters did they even reach settlements. in 60% they reached them in arbitration. attorneys fees dz hdz 4 -- $424 million in class action cas -- cases. the debate is not as many would have you believe as to whether we are forcing arbitration. even the arbitration clause in the current system create
options for consumers to go into small claims court. this is about whether to force the dispute into class action litigation. and that's what we need to decide tonight. mr. brown: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. brown: the vice president of the united states is here. it looks like equifax and wall street and wells fargo will win again. the vice president only shows up in this body when the rich and the powerful need him. well, it's pretty clear tonight that wall street needs him. this vote will make the rich richer. it will make the powerful more powerful. forced arbitration hurts the 3.5 million people who were defrauded by wells fargo. forced arbitration hurts the 145 million americans who were wronged by equifax, 5 million in ohio alone. it hurts employees who have been hurt by their employers. it hurts students who have been treated by for-profit --
treated by for profit colleges. it hurts families in nursing home, the families with student loan debt and credit cards. i'll close with this, mr. president, i want every voting member of the the senate to look in the eyes -- think of this -- look in the eyes of the american legion veterans who say a vote to overturn the cfpb arbitration rule is a vote against our military and against our veterans. vote no. mr. president, i yield back the time on our side. mr. crapo: mr. president, i also yield back our time. the presiding officer: all time is yielded back. the clerk will read the title of the joint resolution for the third time. the clerk: h.j. res. 111, joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8, chapter 5, united states code, and so forth. the presiding officer: the question is on the passage of the joint resolution.
the presiding officer: on this vote, the yeas are 50, the nays are 50. the senate being equally divided, the vice president votes in the affirmative, and the joint resolution is passed. mr. mcconnell: mr. president. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the senate be in a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the appointments at the desk appear separately in the record as if made by the chair. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of calendar number 97, s. 226. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 97, s. 226, a bill to exclude power
supply circuits, drivers, and devices, and so forth. the presiding officer: without objection, the senate will proceed to the measure. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the bill be considered read a third time. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i know of no further debate on the bill. the presiding officer: if there is no further debate, the question is on the passage of the bill. all those in favor say aye. all those opposed, no. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the bill is passed. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the committee on help be discharged from further consideration of h.r. 304 and the senate proceed to its immediate consideration. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the bill. the clerk: h.r. 304, an act to amend the controlled substances act with regard to the provision of emergency medical services.
the presiding officer: without objection, the committee is discharged and will proceed to the measure. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the cassidy substitute amendment which is at the desk be agreed to, the bill as amended be considered read a third time and passed, and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the armed services committee be discharged from further consideration and the senate now proceed to s. res. 234. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the bill. the clerk: senate resolution 234, recognizing the sailors and marines who sacrificed their lives for ship and shipmates while fighting the devastating 1967 fire on board the u.s.s. forestal, and so forth. the presiding officer: without objection, the committee is discharged and the senate will proceed to the measure. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the resolution be agreed to, the yearns amendment to
the -- the ernt amendment to the preamble be agreed to, the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to immediate consideration of s. res. 301 submitted earlier today. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the bill. the clerk: senate resolution 301, designating the week beginning on october 22, 2017, as national chemistry week. the presiding officer: without objection, the senate will proceed to the measure. mr. mcconnell: i further ask the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, and the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: now, mr. president, i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the consideration of s. res. 302, submitted earlier today. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the bill. the clerk: senate resolution 302, authorizing limited still photography of the senate wing of the united states capitol, and so forth. the presiding officer: without objection, the senate will proceed to the measure. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to,
and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that when the senate completes its business today, it adjourn until 9:30 a.m. wednesday, october 25. following that -- further, that following the prayer and pledge, the morning business be deemed expired, the journal of proceedings be approved to date, an the time for the two leaders be reserved for their use later in the day and morning business be closed. further, following leader remarks, the senate proceed to executive consideration and resume consideration of the palk nomination with the time until the cloture vote equally divided between the two leaders or their designees. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: if there is no further business to come before the senate, i ask that it stand adjourned under the previous order following the remarks of senator franken. the presiding officer: without objection. the senator is recognized. mr. franken: thank you, mr. president. i rise today to remember and
celebrate the life of my friend, senator paul wellstone. paul led a lot of fights in the u.s. senate on behalf of working families and those without a voice. he didn't back down even when a fight seemed unwinnable. he told voters exactly what i believed even when it wasn't popular. it was by taking such positions that minnesotans, whether there agreed with him or not, always knew where he stood. in the final days of the 2002 campaign, he told minnesotans, quote, i don't represent the big oil companies, i don't represent the big pharmaceutical companies. they already have great representation in washington. it's the rest of the people that need it. i represent the people of
minnesota. but paul also knew full well that standing up to powerful interests could have steep political costs. his career in the senate was book ended by votes going to war in iraq. both his votes were unpopular, but paul stood on principle, not on politics. the first speech he gave as a senator was in opposition to the first gulf war and one of the last senate votes he cast was against the second war in iraq. he was facing a tough reelection challenge at the time of his vote and he knew it might cost him his seat and told friends so. but to have voted otherwise, he said, would have violated the
principles that guided his career so he voted his conscience and put the political considerations aside, just as he did throughout his time in public office. then just 11 days before election day his plane went down, taking not only paul and sheila, his wife, but their daughter marcia, campaign staffers tom lapik, mary mcavoy, as well as pilots richard conway and michael guess. since coming to the senate, i learned how well regarded paul was regarded not only by those
on both sides of the aisle but also by the capitol police officers and for the elevator operators for whom he always made time. paul's legislative work continues to make a profound difference in the lives of millions of americans. among his accomplishments are his pioneering efforts along with republican senator pete domenici of new mexico on mental health parity which ensures that copays for mental health services are on par with payments for any other medical service. the law was jointly named for paul and senator domenici and it passed in late 2008, six years after paul's death. after i was seated in 2009, one of the first things i did was
work with paul's son david on getting the final rules written to implement wellstone-domenici. that work inspired me to later push for investments in school mental health services to help students and their families who need those services. paul also led the david and goliath effort that favored big banks and credit card companies overworking families despite going up against a wide range of special interests with huge lobbying power and lots of money, he successfully held off passage of the bill during his lifetime. he also took on special interests when he stood against
oil drilling in the arctic national wildlife refuge. he believed, like i do, that the long-term consequences of endangering the home of indigenous people and a pristine habitat for wildlife far outweighed, quote, a short-term speculative supply of oil that would not help consumers. and because of paul and others in the senate, the wildlife refuge, at least for now, remains pristine. paul also had an amazing and special relationship with sheila who became an important partner in his senate work. she became a leading advocate for survivors of domestic violence, spending years raising awareness about the issue and the need to address its causes.
former senator and vice president joe biden said, sheila deserves as much credit as any lawmaker for passage of the landmark violence against women act. since the law's enactment, incident of domestic violence has been reduced significantly. it was a landmark achievement. my constituents remember paul fondly. they leave notes and mementos for him at the quiet memorial site honoring him just off highway 53 in minnesota. they leave him for his wife sheila too and for the others who died with them exactly 15 years ago tomorrow. -- tomorrow when their plane
tragically crashed just miles from the airport. i've been to the memorial site and i've seen how deeply and personally paul touched people in minnesota and across the country. he inspired them not only as is -- as a u.s. senator for 10 years but also as a karlton professor who encouraged a generation of students to take action in their communities. he did so as a fiery organizer who stood up for minnesota farmers and working families and insisted on giving them a voice and a seat at the table. he never lost the tenacious spirit that led him to be a collegiate wrestling champion. he -- he's in the college wrestling hall of fame, and he brought that same approach to standing up for minnesotans.
he stood strong against injustice even when it twice meant being arrested. it wasn't because he wanted to break the law but because he thought it was necessary to bring about change for the better. he also had a special way of connecting with people. former senator tom harkin said at a memorial service for paul that he, quote, made a minor up on the iron range know that he was important as the president of the united states. and that's how paul voted in the senate too, putting -- putting ordinary minnesotans -- ahead of publics and money.
the last time i saw paul was at a 2002 campaign event in st. paul just weeks before he died. he was locked in a bitter struggle for reelection and despite being in a grueling fight for his political life, the first thing he said to me was, how's your mom? i had just come from my mom's nursing home in minneapolis where she had a picture of paul on her wall street that said feeb phobe keep fighting. she had dimentia and that day i couldn't have a conversation with her and he nodded and he
put his hand on my shoulder and said touch means so much. touch means so much. the next day i went to the nursing home and i took my garden out to -- my mom out to the garden in a wheelchair. she was having a bad day again and i put my arm around her. i don't know if it meant anything to her but it sure meant everything to me. paul's liech and his -- life and his work meant a lot to me too. his example as a tireless, passionate champion for working families, for veterans, for
farmers, and for those who simply needed a voice have inspired my own time in the senate. i keep paul's picture and his senate name plate in my office behind me as a reminder at my desk every day -- every day i serve i think back to paul's words. this shwhat paul said, -- this is what paul said, politics is not about power, politics is not about money, politics is not about winning for the sake of winning, politics is about the improvement of people's lives. while paul isn't here with us today, his legacy lives on in so many ways. it lives on in the generations of students and activists that he trained and inspired in
minnesota. it lives on in the policies he fought for here in the senate, for access to mental health care, for a cleaner environment, and for making sure that working families get a fair shot. and it lives on in the countless lives that he touched, like mine and my mom's. paul made us all better and i hope his legacy will continue to inspire us well into the future. thank you, mr. president. the presiding officer: the senate is adjourned until need e
priority that they deserve. california has been devastated, frankly, by the wildfires that we have just experienced. ten days ago, i was in santa rosa, california, and firsthand witnessed the devastation that took place throughout that region, and in particular in i am met with firefighters,n community leaders, elected leaders and others who traveled to the area with a desire to