[Congressional Record Volume 150, Number 93 (Thursday, July 8, 2004)]
[Senate]
[Pages S7863-S7864]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                          CLASS ACTION REFORM

  Mr. CARPER. Mr. President, we just concluded a vote and a very 
disappointing chapter in our effort to reform the way part of our legal 
system works in this country.
  We have debated for the last several days how we might change the 
current system where people have been harmed by goods or services 
provided for their use by some company and did not get what they should 
have--they have been shortchanged or maybe even exposed to a dangerous 
product or harmed by it in some way--and how we might make sure they 
are made whole and that we have the opportunity to assemble that group 
of harmed people across States or across the country so they can have 
their day in court. We are looking for a way to make sure the companies 
that harmed those people are held accountable and know they are going 
to face a serious financial consequence if they do something untoward 
or just wrong with respect to their products or services which they 
provide.
  Today we were not able to proceed to the bill and have the 
opportunity to offer amendments which are germane, pertinent to the 
bill, relevant to the bill, or those which maybe were not.
  My colleague who is presiding has been here for a year and half or 
so. I know these are issues he has worked on a lot in those 18 months. 
This class action reform is probably an issue on which he has spent the 
most time.
  As we leave here tonight with this business unfinished, I am deeply 
disappointed. We come to the end of a chapter, not the end of the book. 
We have to turn a page and figure out how to go forward.
  Our system of justice is out of whack. It is out of balance. The 
tragedy of it all is we had a very good legislative product here to 
debate and fix. The system worked the way it was supposed to. We had 
hearings, I think as many as 10, on this issue and how to fix it. The 
committees of jurisdiction held hearings in the House and in the 
Senate. The committees of jurisdiction had a chance to actually debate 
and vote on the bills and to amend them. They had the opportunity to 
report those bills out. The House debated this on the floor. In the 
Senate, we had the opportunity. In the Senate, we fell one vote short 
of bringing the bill to the Senate floor last fall. We had the 
opportunity coming out of that disappointing vote to go back to make 
the bill even better and to bring a truly bipartisan bill to the floor 
of the Senate which would be supported by a Republican majority and 
with a good deal of Democratic support.
  Given that 65 Members in the Senate were prepared to vote for it, to 
go home tonight not having had a chance to actually vote for 
amendments, relevant amendments and nonrelevant amendments, is very 
disappointing. I am not going to get into assigning blame. There is 
probably enough on both sides.
  I said to the press in an earlier interview that this week in the 
Senate reminds me of maybe a new television reality show, a 
dysfunctional family. It is not pretty to watch or, frankly, to be a 
part of.
  When I came here, I wanted to fix things and right wrongs. I know 
most of us came here with that in mind. This is a wrong that needs to 
be made right. We had a great opportunity in this bill to do that.
  I leave here tonight bewildered, in a sense. One sure way to stymie a 
bill and stop progress on it this week was to bring the bill to the 
floor of the Senate in a way that closed off the opportunity for the 
minority to offer some reasonable number of nongermane amendments.
  I have said so many times to our friends on the other side of the 
aisle, when you bring the bill to the Senate floor, think of it as a 
bottle of wine we are opening. We are popping the cork and letting it 
breathe for a while. Maybe set aside a week and give us a week to 
debate the bill itself, relevant amendments and a reasonable number of 
nongermane amendments.
  If it becomes clear after several days or a week that our side is 
being dilatory, if it becomes clear our side is simply not interested 
in passing the bill, they are just playing games, those Democrats who 
support a bill will support an effort to close off debate and to force 
a final vote on the bill.
  For the life of me, after saying repeatedly since January that the 
one way to kill the bill is to bring it to the Senate in a way that 
stymies debate and closes off amendments that might be nongermane, the 
very first thing out of the box presented was a cloture motion and a 
move to fill the amendment tree so our side is precluded from offering 
amendments, except for those that are germane, I don't understand it.
  In the words of a colleague on our side who is opposed to the bill, 
the only way those who are opposed to the bill could have won was by 
bringing the bill to the Senate today, invoking cloture, and inflaming 
Democratic opposition to the bill, united Democratic opposition to the 
bill.
  There are at least a dozen or more on this side who very much want to 
pass class action legislation this year. God knows I do, and I know 
people on both sides have worked to get us to this point. For the life 
of me, I do not understand why we could not open that bottle of wine, 
let it breathe for a while, debate the amendments, germane and 
nongermane. If it became clear we were wasting our time and people were 
playing games, we could have cut it off, but do not do it right out of 
the box.
  I leave here bewildered and, frankly, more than a little bit 
disappointed. I say to those folks around the country who are as 
disappointed as I am, and others who support the bill, I am not one who 
gives up easily.
  Some of my colleagues hear me talk about my four core values that we 
built an administration on when I was Governor of Delaware and which I 
brought with me and I try to use them here with my legislative 
initiatives.
  One, figure out the right thing to do and do it. I am convinced 
changing this part of our legal system is the right thing to do.
  The second core value is to commit to excellence in everything we do. 
By golly, I know we can do better than the status quo with respect to 
this aspect of our legal system.
  My third core value is the Golden Rule: treat other people the way I 
want to be treated. When consumers are

[[Page S7864]]

harmed, they ought to be compensated. When companies misbehave, they 
ought to have to pay damages. It is that simple. The way our system 
runs today is wrong. It is wrong for consumers and, frankly, it is 
wrong for companies, in many cases. It is a wrong that needs to be 
righted.
  My fourth core value is don't give up. I am not one who ever gives 
up. I, for sure, am not going to give up.
  While I go home disappointed, I will come back next week committed to 
do whatever we can this year to pass this bill and get it signed into 
law.
  I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. FRIST. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

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