(House of Representatives - May 09, 1996)

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[Pages H4756-H4764]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The unfinished business is the further 
consideration of the veto message of the President on the bill (H.R. 
956) to establish legal standards and procedures for product liability 
litigation, and for other purposes.
  The question is, Will the House, on reconsideration, pass the bill, 
the objections of the President to the contrary notwithstanding?
  The gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Hyde] is recognized for 1 hour.
  Mr. HYDE. Mr. Speaker, for purposes of debate only, I yield 30 
minutes to the gentleman from Michigan [Mr. Conyers], the ranking 
member of the Committee on the Judiciary.

                             General Leave

  Mr. HYDE. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may 
have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks 
on H.R. 956.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Illinois?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. HYDE. Mr. Speaker, I yield 15 minutes of my time to the gentleman 
from Viriginia [Mr. Bliley], the chairman of the Committee on Commerce, 
and I ask unanimous consent that he may be permitted to yield blocks of 
time to other Members.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Illinois?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. HYDE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 10 minutes.
  (Mr. HYDE asked and was given permission to revise and extend his 
  Mr. HYDE. Mr. Speaker, one of the least meritorious reasons the 
President has listed for his veto was that this bill infringed on 
States' rights. The newly discovered respect for the 10th amendment is 
heartening but somewhat misplaced. In our mobile society, 80 percent of 
our manufactured goods are shipped across State lines, and the 
unpredictability of a patchwork of 50 different sets of laws and 
liabilities is a major factor prompting this commonsense bipartisan 
  We do not help the consumer when factoring into insurance premiums 
the uncertainties of compliance with a myriad of different State laws 
and unpredictability of punitive damage awards. We only add to the cost 
of the product and render our industries less competitive with foreign 
  Plaintiffs collect less than half of every dollar spent on the civil 
justice system. The rest goes to lawyers and court costs. One study 
found the cost of this litigation explosion last year alone was $152 
billion, and this is money that could be spent on hiring new workers 
and investing in new equipment.
  Tort reform does not deny valid claimants receiving adequate awards. 
It merely reduces the arbitrary excesses that harm consumers by 
discouraging many new products from being marketed, medical devices 
such as heart valve, pacemakers if they utilize silicon.
  The Washington Post, no conservative house organ, says the primary 
beneficiaries of our current system are a group of wealthy and powerful 
professionals. Guess who they are speaking about? The arbitrary 
potential liability that can be imposed through unrestrained punitive 
damage forces unjustified settlements, increasing insurance costs, and 
the public, the consumer, loses in the end. Negligence should be 
actionable and deserving plaintiffs should recover adequate damages, 
but it is the arbitrary excesses that make our tort system top heavy

[[Page H4757]]

and this is what this legislation seeks to reform.
  Thanks to the veto, the status quo will continue, costing consumers 
dearly. They will pay more for products or go without them because they 
will be pulled from the market because of the liability exposure.
  The junior Senator from West Virginia said it all when he said, and I 
quote, ``Unfortunately, special interests and raw political 
considerations in the White House have overridden sound policy 
  Mr. Speaker, the American public wants and deserves reform of our 
current out-of-control legal system. We need to replace the liability 
lottery that pervades our courts with sensible procedures. We need a 
legal system which will fairly compensate injured parties without 
making defendants pay well beyond their share of the fault, simply 
because those defendants are perceived to have the deep pocket.
  It is no mystery to the average citizen that each of us pays for 
runaway product liability costs in the form of higher prices for the 
products we buy. Yet in placating the trial lawyers, the President has 
denied us all the benefits of long overdue tort reform. The sad thing 
is that the legislation the President has vetoed is a comparatively 
modest proposal, much narrower in scope than the bill which passed the 
House of Representatives on March 10, 1995 by a vote of 265 to 161.
  This conference committee version is strongly supported by groups 
such as the National Federation of Independent Business, the American 
Council on Life Insurance, the National Association of Manufacturers, 
and the Health Care Liability Alliance. It also has the aggressive 
backing of many Members of the President's own party, among them 
Senator Jay Rockefeller, whom I mentioned before.
  The bill vetoed by the President contains provisions which would 
vastly improve the way product liability cases are tried and settled. 
It properly puts the blame for product liability injury on the 
manufacturers, not someone who is merely a reseller or someone who 
supplies component parts to a manufacturer of medical devices.
  It also provides that if the use of alcohol or illegal drugs is more 
than 50 percent of the cause of an injury, the manufacturer is not 
liable. It would reduce the damages for which a defendant is liable by 
the percentage of responsibility for the harm attributed to the misuse 
or alteration of the product involved.
  The President says he objects to the 15-year statute of repose, 
presumably because it is 5 years shorter than the Senate version. What 
he does not explain is that the 21 States which have enacted statutes 
of repose have all chosen limitations of 15 years or less. If we want 
U.S. manufacturers to be able to compete with foreign manufacturers, 
many of whom have only recently entered the market and thus bear no 
exposure for old products, we have to enact uniform, sensible cutoffs 
on liability.
  The President also criticizes the specifics of what the bill does to 
limit a plaintiff's ability to recover damages. Let us not focus on 
what it does not, or rather, let us focus on what it does not do.
  It does not change a plaintiff's ability to recover payment for loss 
of income, medical expenses and other economic damages.
  While it imposes limitations on the recovery of punitive damages, the 
conference report version is much more generous to plaintiffs than was 
the original House-passed bill. Our bill limited punitive damage awards 
in all civil actions to three times economic damages or $250,000, 
whichever is greater. The conference report limits punitive damage 
awards only in product liability cases and the limit is twice economic 
and noneconomic damages or $250,000, whichever is greater.
  In a major departure from the philosophy of the House approach, the 
conference report would permit a judge to exceed these limits under 
certain circumstances. The conference report also does not place any 
monetary cap on the amount of damages for pain and suffering and other 
noneconomic damages that may be recovered.

  Let us remind ourselves of the consequences of failing to enact 
reform. This legislation would unleash an American job creation boom, 
translating into real growth for our economy.
  It would particularly benefit small business, which has created the 
vast majority of all new jobs in this country since 1987. The need for 
this relief for the small business community is shown by the fact that 
it was the top issue to emerge from the 1986 White House Conference on 
Small Business. Tort reform and specifically many of the provisions 
contained in H.R. 956 was once again a high-priority recommendation of 
the 1995 White House conference.
  The President's veto can only be viewed as an affront to this 
important segment of the American economy. Of course it is not a 
perfect bill, but it is a very good bill. It may not solve all the 
problems in our legal system, but it would be a workable first step in 
that direction.
  It fairly balances the interest of plaintiffs and defendants in 
product liability cases. We are presented with a unique opportunity to 
obtain the ends of justice by giving the system certainty and imposing 
rational limits on damages.
  Mr. Speaker, after nearly two decades of effort to fashion a 
comprehensive set of product liability reforms, we have the chance to 
enact a bipartisan consensus package of bottom-up reforms. These 
reforms are desperately needed to restore some fairness to our present 
system and to remove roadblocks to our country's economic growth and 
job creation.
  We need to send the message to all Americans that this Congress means 
what it says in its commitment to broad-based legal reform and about 
bringing an end to lawsuit abuse. I urge my colleagues to join me in 
voting to override this unwise veto.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  (Mr. CONYERS asked and was given permission to revise and extend his 
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I rise to suggest to you that the President 
of the United States was correct to veto the bill before us, the 
product liability bill, as being harmful to working Americans and 
particularly discriminating against women, so I urge a ``no'' vote to 
sustain the veto.
  This proposal to override is a continuation of the majority 
Republicans' war on public safety, on workers, on women, and on 
seniors. They continue their war for the special interests who have 
spent over $26 million in campaign contributions in an effort to tilt 
the legal system further in their favor. So let us not kid ourselves, 
no matter what is said here today, about where the special interests 
concern lies.

                              {time}  1845

  So far, amazingly, I have not heard the lawyers get beat up yet, but 
this is only the beginning of the debate. I always enjoy that part, 
where the lawyers are singled out as special interest people, when the 
hugest special interests in our political system are in there solid 
working on the other side.
  That is the simple truth of the matter, and that is what this is all 
about. I was pleased that the President would veto this measure. I 
warned the committees in the process that this would likely happen, 
please include a few provisions that would have made this product 
liability bill make more sense. But, no. We had a conference committee, 
you may remember, in December. We had one opening meeting, and that was 
it. So much for any bipartisan attempts at working anything out.
  I have been in more than one conference in this Congress that 
proceeded much along those lines. We were shut out. Fortunately, the 
President stepped in, and now, having had this veto, we are here now to 
determine whether we will override it or sustain the President in his 
  Now, this bill has some problems. It has a lot of little problems, 
but it has some very big problems. The product liability bill would not 
only cap and limit the amount of damages an injured victim can recover, 
but would in many instances completely cut off the victim's right to 
seek compensation. Completely cut off the victim's right to seek 
  This is coming out of the Committee on the Judiciary, the committee 
that is supposed to be the watchdog over the freedoms of people.
  Mr. HYDE. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?

[[Page H4758]]

  Mr. CONYERS. I yield to the gentleman from Illinois.
  Mr. HYDE. Mr. Speaker, would the gentleman tell me under what 
circumstances someone is completely denied a right to seek recovery for 
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time, we could cut off their 
rights to seek compensation even in clear, uncontested cases of 
  Mr. HYDE. How so, would the gentleman tell me?
  Mr. CONYERS. I will in just a moment, if I can proceed.
  Mr. HYDE. That comes as a surprise to me. Maybe the gentleman knows 
something I do not, which is entirely possible.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time, it has happened once or 
twice in this session. I will be happy to clarify this for the 
chairman, because he sounds sincere in his desire for this information.
  It especially discriminates against working people, who this Congress 
will not provide an increase in the minimum wage for. It discriminates 
against women, who might lose their reproductive capacity as a result 
of deadly injury brought on by irresponsible corporate behavior.
  So this is a one-way street of federalism, return power to the 
States, so long as it disadvantages consumers and the common folks. I 
reject that completely.
  Now, to make matters even worse, we are considering this override at 
the very same time that the Republican majority I proposing to gut the 
safety regulations and eliminate safety agencies like the Consumer 
Product Safety Commission. That is going on in another bailiwick.
  And if you do not think the threat of private lawsuits can help keep 
dangerous products off the market, just think about the history of 
personal injury litigation over the past decade or two. We know what 
has happened by the lawsuits brought by the parents of children who 
have been killed by wearing flammable pajamas. That was a direct result 
of personal injury litigation. Or the women who have been maimed by the 
copper 7 intrauterine device. There again, lawsuits, long and hard, 
that brought about a change in dangerous products.
  Both the products are now off the market, thanks to good legal work 
and trial work and the threat of punitive damages. And that is what 
punitive damages are about.
  This bill, however, will not reduce litigation, cannot reduce 
litigation, because we are up against the myth that product liability 
suits are exploding. Let us deal with that right off the bat here.
  Product liability suits represent less than 2 percent of the 
litigation that goes on in the United States of America, less than 2 
percent, and even those two 2 percent of cases are dropping, it is 
going down. And with that drop, product liability premiums are also 
dropping. So there. How much can we be interfering with economic 
development and expansion in the United States?
  Punitive damages is always a great subject. Where are they taking 
place and how frequently? Punitive damages occur in about 14 cases a 
year, going back to the 1960's. The cap of $250,000 on punitive damages 
is a joke. It is not a deterrent. That is all punitive damages are for, 
and that is why they are used so rarely.
  How can a Fortune 500 company, making annual revenues of billions of 
dollars, be deterred from placing a dangerous product on the market 
because of the threat of a punitive damages award that is hacked to 
literally nothing under this bill? That is why the special interests 
are behind the bill.
  The next point that should be considered a big one as a reason to 
sustain the President in his veto is that this bill will also limit 
victims' rights to recover the non-economic damages when there are 
joint tortfeasors. So if a jointly produced product induces a loss of 
reproductive capacity in a housewife, she will be limited in her 
recovery, but if an expensively paid corporate executive is injured by 
a product and loses his salary, obviously, under this test, the bill 
ensures that he will be fully compensated.

  So we have talked about the political special interests, but what 
about others? The electric, water, and gas utilities industries have 
obtained a provision overruling liability laws in states which hold 
them strictly liable for utility disasters. Is that a good thing for 
the consumers in America?
  By the way, everybody is a consumer. Even the fat cats are consumers. 
The rich are consumers. The poor are consumers. Working people are 
  What are we thinking about here?
  Oh, more special interests. The gun sellers and the bar owners 
obtained special language limiting their potential liability for 
careless sales to third parties, Now, that should go over big with the 
American citizenry.
  This is a bill of the special interests. It is by the special 
interests, for the special interests, who have done so much to show 
their appreciation of the promoters of this piece of legislation, that 
could not pass a very modest level of muster from the White House.
  We will be remembered in this 104th Congress as the Congress that did 
not do much, and even when we tried to do something, it was so poor 
that it had to be vetoed. I am counting on that veto being sustained, 
because those who continue to insist that we have to limit the rights 
of working Americans, limit the rights of consumers, make the legal 
system less accessible, I think are doing a disservice to the legal 
process and to the Congress that we are operating in. It is another 
example of a Republican legislative effort that is heading for the 
trash bin.
  The President is right to veto the bill. It is harmful to consumers, 
it disrespects working Americans, it is discriminatory against women, 
and for any of those reasons and more, I think there is more than 
enough reason to vote no to sustain the veto.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. BLILEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 4\1/2\ minutes.
  Mr. Speaker, last month, this Congress handed the trial lawyer's 
lobby the biggest defeat they've ever faced, when we passed bipartisan, 
common sense product liability reform--reforms that would end the 
lawsuit lottery that is making the trial lawyers rich at the expense of 
every one of us who buys an American-made product--a ladder, an 
automobile, groceries, you name it.
  It was a win, most of all, for American workers. That's because these 
product liability lawsuits are eating up $132 billion in this country 
every year--money that could be used to build new plants, buy new 
equipment, create new jobs.
  And let's make no mistake about it, if we don't override this veto, 
those workers will be the ones to pay.
  The Bureau of Labor Statistics' report for April showed that this 
economy created just 2,000 jobs in all of last month--fewer than 3 new 
jobs per State per day, and virtually every one of those in the public 
  Yet while 2,000 were lucky enough to take jobs behind the desks of 
Government, another 17,000 American workers--8\1/2\ times that number--
lost their manufacturing jobs.
  They'll join the army of 319,000 Americans who've lost factory jobs 
in the year that began in April 1995.
  These are the ones who are paying the price for Bill Clinton's veto 
of product liability reforms.
  Well, Mr. President, you put the interests of the rich trial 
lawyers--the ones who gave so much to your campaign--ahead of the 
interests of those hundreds of thousands of laid-off American workers.
  Ever since the liberal judges radicalized this country's product 
liability laws, the result has been a bonanza for America's trial 
lawyers, and a disaster for American factory workers. A 1988 conference 
board survey of chief executives found that 36 percent had reduced 
manufacturing operations because of fear of product liability lawsuits, 
15 percent had laid off workers, and fully 8 percent had to close down 
factories altogether.
  This is the second time in 6 months that Bill Clinton had a choice 
between American workers and his trial lawyer buddies. Both times, the 
workers lost.
  Last December 19, remember, Bill Clinton vetoed commonsense 
securities litigation reform--another corruption of our justice system 
that makes a handful of lawyers rich, at the expense of all of us.
  Back then, I led the fight on the floor against the veto. And less 
than 12 hours after the President used his veto pen, this Congress 
handed him the first override.

[[Page H4759]]

  It was as proud a moment as I've had as a Member of this House.
  Today, Mr. Speaker, let's do those American workers a favor. Let's 
repeat it.

                              {time}  1900

  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 5\1/2\ minutes to the gentleman 
from Michigan [Mr. Dingell], dean of the House, dean of the Michigan 
delegation, my good friend, and once the former chairman of the 
Committee on Commerce.
  Mr. DINGELL. Mr. Speaker, I begin by expressing my great affection 
for the distinguished gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Hyde], chairman of 
the Committee on the Judiciary, and also the distinguished gentleman 
from Virginia [Mr. Bliley], chairman of the Committee on Commerce. They 
are fine Members and dear friends of mine and I have enormous respect 
and affection for both of them.
  Mr. Speaker, I was, as this body knows, the individual who was in on 
addressing the problem of product liability early on. Our committee 
began the effort by moving out the first piece of legislation that ever 
came out of a congressional committee on this.
  It is my view that product liability lawsuits have been much abused, 
and that serious and adverse economic consequences have struck the 
American economy, the American worker, and American businessman because 
of that, and I intend to vote to override the President's veto.
  But, Mr. Speaker, I want to make it clear that I do it with a sense 
of heaviness in my heart. Without any ill will towards my good friend 
from Virginia [Mr. Bliley], I want to make it plain that I think that 
was a very bad speech. This is not an issue which we should make a 
partisan issue. It is a broad question of the public good. Are we going 
to correct an abuse which is here?
  The hard fact is that the handling of this bill has given the 
American public, I think, and the Members of this body, a clear 
impression that what is happening here is essentially a partisan 
exercise on the part of our Republican colleagues. Members on this side 
of the aisle were very much excluded from the discussions in the so-
called conference which took place. There was no real conference in the 
traditional sense. Members had no opportunity to participate. There was 
no opportunity afforded the White House or the administration downtown 
to discuss concerns which they had with regard to the bill.
  That is a very bad way to proceed. It was not an open House which 
functioned. It was not an open committee or an open conference which 
functioned. Rather, it was a very much closed and secretive 
undertaking. There were a couple of pro forma meetings which were, at 
best, opportunities for perhaps Bull Run speeches or perhaps for 
Members to say what they were going to do.
  The real work was done behind closed doors at which Members, like 
myself, who wanted to participate and who could have participated and 
who would have participated in the bringing together of the divergent 
views which exist on the subject of product liability in a way that we 
could anticipate that this bill would then be signed into law, were 
  I think we are looking here, then, at a situation where the way this 
matter has been handled has been to assure not that a bill can be 
signed and not that a major economic and social problem is addressed, 
but simply so that we can have here an exercise in fingerpointing, 
something which is going to do two things: First, further alienate 
Members within this body on this subject, and, second, to assure that 
this bill is going to fall to a veto which has been given. A residue of 
great ill will is going to be left in this body which is going to 
adversely impact future efforts to address the problem of product 
  I view those events as a great calamity. I think American industry 
does need relief from the kind of situation they confront, and I would 
point to the long hearings which we held in which we heard from 
industry, from individuals affected, even from the trial attorneys.

  Those pointed up the need for change, but regrettably the process in 
which we are now engaged is going to assure that there is going to be 
no significant change. A veto is going to be upheld, vast 
fingerpointing will occur, ill will will remain and grow, and the 
problem of product liability litigation will not be resolved.
  The final result of this is going to be that a great opportunity to 
do broad good for the American public, for the American economy, is 
going to be lost today.
  My friend and colleague, Mr. Bliley, talks about how this is an 
attempt on the part of the President to procure campaign contributions. 
I would point out that we all will be charged with receiving campaign 
contributions and I would point out this: There will be abundant 
campaign contributions befalling my Republican colleagues because of 
their views on this, probably larger campaign contributions than will 
fall on a Democrat who supports the President's veto.
  I do not think that we ought to attribute, either to our colleagues 
or to the President of the United States or anybody else, the crass 
motive of proceeding solely on the basis of campaign contributions. I 
think we ought to give credit to each other for proceeding on the basis 
of the board public interest and doing good and carrying out our oath 
of office as we see that oath and that duty to compel us.
  I reject the idea that we should then proceed in that fashion. I 
think that that is the way in which we do greatest credit to ourselves 
and to argue this question on the basis that somebody is doing 
something on the basis of a campaign contribution demeans the 
individual who is charged, but it demeans also the individual who makes 
the charge.
  I would urge my colleague, if we are going to address this question 
here, let us address it from the standpoint of the broad public 
interest. But let us when we do so understand that we have some duty to 
bring all Members into the discussions, something which was not done 
here and something which has impaired in a severe way our opportunity 
to resolve a matter of very important concern to all Americans.
  Mr. BLILEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds.
  Mr. Speaker, I would just say to my great friend and the ranking 
minority member of the Committee on Commerce that I would have not 
brought up that about the President and about contributions had not the 
ranking member of the Committee on the Judiciary brought out about fat 
cats and Republicans, and I just thought we ought to respond and set 
the record straight for what it is.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield 2\1/2\ minutes to the distinguished gentleman 
from Ohio [Mr. Oxley], the chairman of the subcommittee.
  (Mr. OXLEY asked and was given permission to revise and extend his 
  Mr. OXLEY. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to ask the House to override the 
President's unfortunate veto of this very moderate approach to product 
liability. Let me say to my good friend from Michigan, who I have 
worked with for so many years on legal reform and specifically on 
product liability reform, that I am perhaps as frustrated with the 
process as he is. That is, the obvious concern that all of us had in 
the conference that the Senate made it very clear that the best we 
could get out of this conference on legal reform was a product 
liability bill, and that became the fait accompli.
  So the stultifying meetings that we had, that the gentleman and I 
participated in, were as frustrating to me as to the gentleman because 
we would have done more, I think, had we been given the opportunity. I 
know the gentleman from Illinois and the gentleman from Virginia, the 
two chairmen, share my concerns about that.
  But be that as it may, we have before us a pretty moderate approach 
to product liability, a bill that we worked on in our committee under 
the great leadership of the gentleman from Michigan, the now infamous 
``tort class from hell'' that went on for 10 days, in which we 
produced, I think, a pretty good product, not dissimilar to the product 
that we have before us today that the President chose to veto.
  I would say to those folks, including the gentleman from 
Massachusetts and others on the floor today who worked on that bill, 
this really is that product.

[[Page H4760]]

It is a moderate approach. It does not deny people their ability to 
recover damages for lost wages for pain and suffering, for medical 
damages. It does put some limits on punitive damages that have gone out 
of control.
  As a matter of fact economist Paul Rubin at Emory University says 
that $82 billion of the $132 billion spent on tort liability has been 
pure waste, and that was just for 1 year, in 1990. That works out to 
$900 per household of wasted money, meaning more cost to the consumer 
in insurance costs and the like. That works out to $900 per U.S. 
household paid in higher prices for goods, services, and insurance 
  That is a very expensive proposition. Not only are we closing down 
some companies and putting people out of work, but at the same time we 
are costing the average consumer, the average household, $900 a year 
more than they would have had to pay otherwise because of many of these 
frivolous lawsuits.
  So, Mr. Speaker, I would say to my colleagues, this very moderate 
approach to product liability, which is the first time this Congress 
has really faced up to that very serious issue, deserves our vote to 
override the President's veto.
  Mr. HYDE. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2\1/2\ minutes to the gentlewoman from 
Kansas [Mrs. Meyers].
  (Mrs. MEYERS of Kansas asked and was given permission to revise and 
extend her remarks.)
  Mrs. MEYERS of Kansas. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of 
today's effort to override the President's veto of H.R. 956, the Common 
Sense Product Liability Reform Act. Meaningful product liability reform 
is one. Most important small business issues, we will consider all 
year. The legislation we passed and sent to the President was a 
bipartisan effort by scores of individual Members of this House and the 
other body not only in this Congress but going back for several 
  I believe that the President's veto of product liability reform 
legislation is a slap in the face to every small businessperson in this 
country. The delegates to the 1995 White House Conference on Small 
Business were dazzled by the President, who told them that his 
administration was ardently pro-small business, but as we all know, 
this President changes his mind. So, he has raised taxes, he has 
championed a mandatory costly health care bill, and now he has vetoed 
product liability reform which small business has been seeking for 
  Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the overwhelming majority of this 
Nation's small businesses have been crying out for meaningful product 
liability reform for years, and it was one of the top issues at the 
1986 and 1995 White House conferences.
  Mr. Speaker, it is important to small business. Because of the high 
cost of liability insurance and because small business operates without 
large profit margins, just one lawsuit can totally wipe out a small 
  Punitive damages are capped at $250,000 or two times noneconomic 
damage, whichever is less, for small business. Sellers are not liable 
if drugs or alcohol are more than 50 percent responsible for an 
accident. It provides a mechanism for settlement out of court.

                              {time}  1915

  The bill says a small business is only responsible for the 
proportionate share of blame, and it provides a statute of limitations. 
I truly regret this veto. For the sake of small business, I implore my 
colleagues on both sides of this aisle to override the veto.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Boehner). The gentleman from Illinois 
[Mr. Hyde] has 3\1/2\ minutes remaining, the gentleman from Virginia 
[Mr. Bliley] has 7\3/4\ minutes remaining, and the gentleman from 
Michigan [Mr. Conyers] has 11\1/2\ minutes remaining.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 1 minute.
  My colleague, the gentleman from Michigan, [Mr. John Dingell], has 
properly decried the process that excluded us. I can suggest to you 
that the work product does not deserve much consideration here. But 
also I would like to point out to my friends, just as we lay to rest 
who is getting the money here, we cannot deny that the political action 
committees of corporations and organizations favoring tort reform 
contributed nearly $62 million between 1989 and 1994, as part of a 
multimillion dollar lobbying effort to overturn America's system of 
civil justice.
  The trial lawyers, trial lawyers, contributed that $5.8 million, one-
tenth of the total of legal reform proponents who came together in a 
massive coalition.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Virginia [Mr. 
Scott], a member of the Committee on the Judiciary.
  Mr. SCOTT. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Michigan for 
yielding time to me.
  Mr. Speaker, we have heard a lot of allegations and some, most of it, 
exaggerated, a lot of anecdotes. Many of the anecdotes would have been 
received under appeal under the present law.
  The fact of the matter is that the number of these cases is 
minuscule, especially when we look at the punitive damages cases, less 
than one per State per year. These have a very strong deterrent effect 
because every day corporations have to decide whether they are going to 
recall dangerous products or modify dangerous products that are killing 
or maiming people.
  If this bill was passed, it would be cheaper to kill or maim people 
than to recall or modify the products. Punitive damage cases end the 
situation where corporations were selling children flammable pajamas 
because it was cheaper to sell those pajamas than to modify them so 
they would not go afire like newsprint.
  We have heard about costs. We ought to have savings. A lot of people 
are not being maimed and injured as a result of tort reform and the 
deterrent effect.
  Mr. Speaker, these laws we talk about as being uniform are not 
uniform. The only laws that are affected by these laws are those that 
are more draconian to consumers than the State laws. If the State has a 
more draconian law, then that law stays in effect under this 
  We also have a situation where joint and several liability is 
abolished. That is where the consumer, if he has a good case, a winning 
case, can sue many people and they have to decide how that damage is 
going to be apportioned. If this bill passes, it will be up to the 
consumer to try to find the unavailable defendants, those that may be 
insolvent. All of that will be borne by the victim.
  Mr. Speaker, on this vote we should protect consumers. We should 
require corporate responsibility, and we should support the President's 
veto by voting no on the motion to override.
  Mr. BLILEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from 
Georgia [Mr. Deal], a member of the committee.
  Mr. DEAL of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I would briefly like to say that we 
should test this legislation by the light of reasonableness. When we 
do, I would ask the question, is it reasonable for punitive damages to 
be limited to a quarter of a million dollars or twice the compensatory 
damages? Most people think so.
  Is it reasonable to give injuries that have multiple defendants the 
right to decide how much each of those defendants should have to pay 
rather than having the one who may be the last culpable have to pay it 
all? Most people think that is reasonable.
  Is it reasonable to say a 2-year statute of limitations in which an 
action must be brought after the injury? Most people think so. Is it 
reasonable to have a 15-year statute of repose?
  The President had to go no further than a member of his own Cabinet, 
our former colleague in the previous Congress, Mr. Glickman, who led 
the efforts in the last Congress to try to save an industry in his 
district, a small aircraft industry, that was faced with a similar 
prospect of extinction to find that this is certainly reasonable.
  Based on the test of reasonableness, I would urge this Congress to 
override the President's veto. I thank the gentleman for yielding time 
to me.
  Mr. HYDE. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the distinguished 
gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. Gekas], a valued member of the 
  Mr. GEKAS. When the President vetoed this product liability bill, Mr. 
Speaker, he also vetoed heart transplants, brain shunts, medical 
devices for replacement of knees, of hips, of shoulders, 100 different 
types of medical devices that are lifesaving or

[[Page H4761]]

health improving, borne by some 8 million Americans currently in the 
use of those medical devices and who knows how many yet to come who 
will require them. Why? Because the suppliers of vital elements that go 
into these medical devices have been going out of business or refusing 
to deal with the manufacturers of medical devices because of the large 
suits, liability suits that loom in front of them should they dare to 
supply a piece of plastic or a piece of wood or a piece of some other 
kind of element that goes into one of these medical devices, even if 
that little piece of that medical device had nothing to do at all with 
the injury that brought about the liability suit in the first place.
  What this bill would have done, if the President would have signed 
it, would have been to release some of these companies from the burden 
of supplying some of these vital elements to medical devices, and we 
then in the Congress could rejoice on making ample supplies of these 
medical devices available to our fellow Americans.
  I urge we override this veto so we can go about the business of 
encouraging the scientific community and the medical community to 
develop even better medical devices, more in tune with life saving and 
health improvement than even now we have on the books, and allow the 
President to be enlightened that a veto such as the one he has 
exercised here threatens the lives and the health of our fellow 
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from 
Massachusetts [Mr. Markey], one of the unsung members of the Committee 
on Commerce.
  Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, the Common Sense Product Liability Legal 
Reform Act is an interesting title for this bill. I suppose the 
Republican majority decided to put common sense into the title because 
it is so clearly absent from the rest of the bill.
  This legislation would take away the rights of working American 
families to meaningfully punish huge corporations that put faulty and 
sometimes deadly products onto the market and hurt American families. 
Eliminating such protections would give product manufacturers or 
sellers a green light to cut dangerous corners, to reap higher profits. 
The result? More deadly products like the Dalkon Shield, exploding Ford 
Pintos, flammable children's pajamas, defective heart valves and other 
nightmares that cause serious injury or death.
  Now, interestingly, these cases are only 1 percent of the cases. 
Thirty-three percent of the cases in the courts are businesses suing 
other businesses. And the National Law Journal, looking into 12,000 
cases that have gone on for more than 3 years in Federal court, came to 
the conclusion that almost all of them were businesses suing other 
  If we are going to deal with the backlog problem, let us look at 
that, not whether or not an individual where a lawnmower blew up in the 
wife or the daughter or the child's face can sue to collect. Let us 
deal with these businesses. So what weighty legal issues are businesses 
suing each other over? Let us take a look.
  McDonald's sought a temporary restraining order to prevent Burger 
King from airing ads comparing the Big Mac unfavorably to the Whopper. 
Haagen Daz sued Frusen Gladje, alleging that it had infringed on Haagen 
Daz's exclusive right to market premium ice cream with a Scandinavian 
flair. Walt Disney sued the Motion Picture Academy to force a public 
apology for an unflattering portrayal of Snow White at the Academy 
Awards ceremonies. Scott Paper sued Proctor & Gamble claiming that it 
allegedly misled consumers about the absorptive power of Bounty paper 
towels by claiming Bounty was the quicker picker-upper.
  And finally, Hormel Foods, maker of the luncheon meat Spam sued the 
Muppets production company to stop them from calling a character in a 
new Muppets movie Spa'am, alleging that the character represented an 
unclean, grotesque boar that would call into question the purity and 
the quality of its products. So the Republicans want to give Spam the 
right to put the Muppets on the witness stand to resolve these business 
issues, even if it takes 2 or 3 years in court. But if Joe Citizen has 
a defective product which has maimed him or his wife or any of his 
children, you are out of luck. We are putting limits on you. You are 
ruining the court system with the 1 percent of cases you bring in. The 
individual against businesses. But if businesses sue other businesses, 
no restrictions whatsoever.
  This is the world on its head. This is a special interest business 
protection against individual Americans making corporations responsible 
for their own actions when they hurt Americans in our country.
  The President's veto should be sustained.
  Mr. BLILEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from 
Louisiana [Mr. Tauzin], a member of the committee.
  Mr. TAUZIN. Mr. Speaker, what can we conclude about this Presidential 
veto? This is the second time the President has vetoed a tort reform 
bill passed by this House and Senate, passed by large numbers of both 
Republicans and Democrats. In fact, the last time he vetoed a tort 
reform bill we did, in fact, override his veto.
  What can we conclude about this veto? First of all, we can conclude 
the President must think this bill is extreme. The gentleman in the 
well who just spoke obviously agrees with him. But the Democratic 
Senator Rockefeller who supports the bill on the Senate side said 
special interests and raw political considerations of the White House 
have overridden sound policy judgment. Democratic Senator Lieberman who 
worked closely with the President throughout this process said, 
President Clinton is dead wrong about this bill. It must be reasonable.
  Let us look at the bill. It says that it is going to hold 
manufacturers primarily responsible instead of sellers. It says that it 
is going to reduce manufacturers' liability to the extent that a 
claimant has altered or misused a product. And it says that there is an 
absolute defense to drug and alcohol abuse. That certainly sounds 
reasonable to me.
  What can we conclude? The President is against all tort reform. We 
ought to override his veto.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from 
North Carolina [Mr. Watt], a member of the Committee on the Judiciary.
  Mr. WATT of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for 
yielding time to me.
  My good friend's comments, the gentleman from Virginia [Mr. Bliley], 
about trial lawyers reminded me of the saying that we always use when 
we are condemning lawyers: First thing we do, let us kill all the 
  I want to remind my colleagues that that comment we often use comes 
from Shakespeare, ``Henry VI.''

                              {time}  1930

  Mr. Speaker, in the sense in which that line is used, a corrupt king 
and his followers are trying to figure out how to suspend everybody's 
freedoms and rights, and the only folks who could possibly stop that 
from happening? My colleagues guessed it: the lawyers.
  So kill all the lawyers, if my colleagues want, but what they are 
trying to do in this case is to stand between the Republicans and the 
suspensions of the rights of the people, the people in this country.
  As the gentleman from Massachusetts [Mr. Markey] has indicated there 
is no litigation explosion in product liability cases. The litigation 
explosion is in business versus business cases.
  We have talked a lot about, in this Congress, personal 
responsibility. Punitive damages, and having individuals have the right 
to file lawsuits when they are injured by faulty products, is about 
corporate responsibility. If we favor personal responsibility, should 
we not also favor corporate responsibility?
  And what about States' rights? I have talked about that before. My 
colleagues have talked about it and say they supported it. But for 
years and years and years, product liability has been determined under 
State law, and here we are, federalizing product liability.
  Mr. BLILEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from 
Washington [Mr. White], a member of the committee.
  Mr. WHITE. Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleagues to consider 
a question.
  Let us say you have a neighbor who has a drinking problem, and one 

[[Page H4762]]

he goes out and has too many drinks, he comes home, parks in front of 
my colleague's house, it is a wonder how he got there in the first 
place. He gets out of the car, barely can walk home, and on the way to 
his house, in front of my colleague's house, he falls down and hits his 
head on the mailbox.
  Now, Mr. Speaker, do my colleagues think they should have to pay his 
medical expenses? I tell my colleagues something: President Clinton 
does. Because he vetoed this bill which solved that problem, among many 
other problems we have in our legal system.
  Mr. Speaker, I am a lawyer. I have great respect for the law. But the 
fact is anybody who has practiced law in our system recently knows it 
is dramatically out of whack and needs to be fixed. This bill is a 
modest step in that direction. We should override the President's veto 
and make sure this actually becomes law.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentlewoman from 
Texas [Ms. Jackson-Lee], a member of the committee.
  (Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas asked and was given permission to revise 
and extend her remarks.)
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, this is a ``three strikes, 
you're out'' bill, and for my colleagues, many of our States already 
have contributory negligence laws to accord for the poor fellow who has 
lost his way. But, No. 1, this legislation would say to someone, a 
woman who had been impacted in the 1980's by the Copper 7 intrauterine 
device by a company that knew that this particular device would keep 
women ultimately, because of its defect, from having children. Strike 
one, she would not be able to prevail under this proposed law.
  Strike two: Just think of the two ladies in a Chicago elevator that 
fell to the ground because it had no slowing mechanism. They would not 
be able to prevail, though they were disabled for life, because it was 
older than 15 years old. How many of us get into elevators and begin to 
look to see when its last birthday was? Strike two.
  Strike three: A farmer in 1990 was driving his tractor that he bought 
in 1966. It rolled over and killed him. He bought it from a Switzerland 
company, and he would not be able to prevail because it was older than 
15 years old. Yet in Switzerland they were putting rollover fixtures in 
in 1959.
  This is a bad bill. This is not a bill of special interests with the 
trial lawyers. This is about the American people. Let us vote for the 
American people, and let us sustain the President's veto.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my opposition to this effort to 
override the President's veto of the conference report on H.R. 956, the 
product liability reform bill. This bill is not a good bill for 
consumers. It certainly does not level the playing field among 
consumers and manufactures.
  While some elements of the current product liability system need to 
be reformed, this bill goes too far. There has been no great explosion 
of product liability lawsuits. The Justice Department's Bureau of 
Justice Statistics indicates that product liability cases represent 
only 1.6 percent of civil cases. Another influential study on product 
liability lawsuits indicates that there have been only an average of 14 
jury awards of punitive damages annually for the last two decades.
  Contrary to arguments made by proponents of the bill, the current 
system is not discouraging capital investment or increasing the costs 
of developing new products. In fact, the General Accounting Office 
reports that insurance costs to businesses represent less than 1 
percent of most businesses' gross annual receipts. Moreover, the 
National Association of Insurance Commissioners indicate that product 
liability insurance premiums have dropped by nearly 30 percent over the 
last 6 years.
  There are several real problems with this bill. First of all, it 
eliminates joint liability for noneconomic damages and caps punitive 
damages at $250,000 or two times compensatory damages, whichever is 
greater. The current system provides a powerful incentive for 
manufacturers to make strong efforts to ensure that their products are 
safe. A cap of $250,000 on punitive damages would mean that some large 
companies may incorporate this figure as a cost of doing business as 
they implement their quality control procedures for manufacturing 
products. Moreover, a provision in the bill permits judges to award 
punitive damages exceeding 250,000 in egregious circumstances would 
rarely be exercised.

  Second, it preempts State law when such law favor consumers and 
defers to State law when such provisions favor the manufacturers. It 
also raises the burden of proof standard to clear and convincing 
evidence in order for a plaintiff to prevail in a lawsuit. It is 
interesting to note that many members of the majority party who 
strongly favor State rights are now eager to impose uniform, Federal 
product liability standards on all 50 States.
  Another problem with this bill is that it eliminates joint and 
several liability for noneconomic losses because of its potentially 
disproportionate impact on women, children, and the elderly. It does, 
however, retain joint and several liability for economic losses such as 
lost wages. Noneconomic losses such as disfigurement or loss of 
fertility should be treated by the legal system the same way as 
economic losses such as lost wages.
  Additionally, I am concerned about the statute of repose provision 
that prohibits courts from awarding damages for injuries caused by 
durable goods that are 15 years or older. The definition of durable 
goods is narrow and excludes various consumer products.
  Mr. Speaker, I urge the Members of the House to sustain the 
President's veto.
  Mr. BLILEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from 
California [Mr. Cox], chairman of the policy committee, a member of the 
Committee on Commerce.
  Mr. COX of California. Mr. Speaker, to respond to my colleagues, when 
something is 15 years old, 20 years old, 30 years old, 100 years old, 
at some point the manufacturer stops being liable and the person who is 
responsible for maintaining the piece of equipment ought to become 
liable, and that is the common sense that is in this bill.
  The truth is that in my part of the country, in California, southern 
California, we have a lot of lawyers in West Los Angeles. Just that 
part of the city, there are more lawyers than in all of Japan. 
California, our fourth largest industry is lawyers, just judged by 
their legal fees. The only bigger industries in California are health 
care, the movie industry, and computers. No. 4 is lawyers fees.
  Our system is a great wheel of fortune, and to respond to my 
colleague from Massachusetts about the fraction of cases that have 
punitive damage awards or the fraction of cases that we are talking 
about here, over 90 percent of all cases never get a single day of 
trial. Therefore, they have no judgments; therefore, they have no 
damages. Everybody settles on the basis of what we euphemistically call 
transaction costs, by which we mean some sort of discounted estimation 
of the lawyers fees it would take to get to the other end, and, 
therefore, there is not any justice. Or if there is justice, it is 
entirely random.
  We started out in the House of Representatives with a much broader 
bill. We covered services as well as products. We covered health care 
lawsuits. All of this now is out. We are down to products, and my 
colleague from Massachusetts joined with others to get everything else 
out of the bill, and now he says we are only covering products. In 
fact, he took out a rule that would have made people bringing frivolous 
lawsuits pay the costs of the other side so that we get all of those 
cases out of the courts, and now we are down to this.
  The Washington Post has endorsed it. It is very reasonable. Our 
Democratic colleagues in the Senate have said President Clinton here is 
catering to special interests. I would not say that. But the truth is 
that the high cost of litigation, the perverse incentives, the slow 
cumbersome system that we have got right now, demands reform which we 
have not had here for 40 years.
  This bill deserves to become law. Override President Clinton's veto. 
He has proven there is no tort reform he will support. It is up to us 
to see this job through.
  Mr. BLILEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Iowa 
[Mr. Ganske], a member of the committee.
  Mr. GANSKE. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of overriding 
the President's veto on the product liability bill.
  A recent op-ed in my hometown newspaper criticized the tort reform 
bill because it made it more difficult to collect punitive damages, but 
that is the purpose of the bill.
  When we see an Alabama jury awarding $4 million in punitive damages 
in a case in which the plaintiff sustained only $4,000 in natural 
losses, something is wrong.
  Why do we need limits to punitive damages? Because the costs are 
passed on to our constituents who pay more for goods and services to 
make up for the high price of lawsuit abuse.

[[Page H4763]]

  This legislation would ensure the injured parties are fully 
compensated for all their losses, both economic and noneconomic. But it 
would prevent them from hurting others by the excessive awards of 
punitive damages which keep people from getting the types of goods and 
services they need.
  Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to join me in overriding the 
President's veto.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 10 seconds to respond to a 
question asked earlier by the chairman.
  Mr. Speaker, he wanted to know the name of somebody who could get 
their victims rights cut off and could not even sue. I give him the 
name of Carla Miller because, under the statute of repose, we would cut 
off any ability to recover in cases of clear misconduct or negligence.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield 20 seconds to the gentlewoman from California 
[Ms. Lofgren], a member of the Committee on the Judiciary.
  Ms. LOFGREN. Mr. Speaker, I have heard a lot of talk today about what 
the people want. Six weeks ago, the people of California considered 
whether or not they should lose their right to a recovery when 
wrongdoing occurred, and they voted not to do that. I think that when 
they find out that the tobacco companies, the NRA and others want to 
keep them from holding wrongdoers to account, that the Consumers Union 
and Mothers Against Drunk Driving disagree, that they will agree with 
me that we should not override the President's veto.
  Mr. BLILEY. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to yield the balance 
of my time to the gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Hyde].
  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Boehner). Is there objection to the 
request of the gentleman from Virginia?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield the remainder of the time on this 
side to the distinguished gentleman from Michigan [Mr. Bonior].
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Michigan is recognized 
for 2 minutes.
  Mr. BONIOR. Mr. Speaker, let us be clear what this bill does. If one 
is a corporate CEO, he can make $1 million a year; God forbid he should 
be in an accident because of a product malfunction. This bill says that 
he can receive full recovery of his economic losses. But if one is a 
working mom, she makes $15,000 a year, and she should get in that same 
accident, and that accident involves more than one wrongdoer, and God 
forbid she should lose her ability to have children, she may never be 
fully compensated for her pain and loss. That is what this bill does.
  It says that the lives of corporate CEO's and the bankers and the 
economic elite in our country are more important and more valuable than 
the lives of working men and women.
  Mr. Speaker, we do not need a bill that tilts the balance away from 
victims of defective products and toward the big corporations who make 
them, and we certainly do not need a bill that gives foreign 
manufacturers a leg up on American companies. If foreign businesses can 
sell their products here, they should be held accountable if anything 
goes wrong.
  Mr. Speaker, we live in a country where 98 percent of all the income 
growth since 1979 has gone to the top 20 percent, yet four times in 
this House alone the Republicans and their leadership have blocked our 
efforts to raise the minimum wage, and today once again we are trying 
to write special rules for the privileged and the wealthy. Enough is 
enough. It is a tragedy when anybody is injured by a faulty product. 
Let us not make women and children and seniors pay a special price.
  Mr. Speaker, these are the reasons why the President vetoed the bill. 
I urge my colleagues, stand up for fairness, stand up for working 
families, help us sustain the President's veto, and stand up for 
fairness for a change.

                              {time}  1945

  Mr. HYDE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume. 
This has been an interesting debate, and remarkable by statements from 
the other side, many of whose Members know so many things that are just 
not so, Mr. Speaker.
  The gentlewoman from Houston, TX, talked about an elevator older than 
15 years falling to the ground in a building, and denying the passenger 
a chance to recover. My gosh, that is a negligence suit. Any building 
that would have a faulty elevator, any lawyer that you can name would 
have a theory to sue on that one and take the building over for 
  Mr. Speaker, nobody is denied a right to sue for damages. I heard 
that again and again and again. It is the runaway punitive damages. You 
can get your pain and suffering, your loss of use, your permanent 
disability, your out-of-pocket expenses. Those are all recoverable. It 
is the punitive damages that also are recoverable, but are restricted 
from running away. That is all this bill does.
  Mr. Speaker, we heard about the minimum wage from more than one or 
two speakers. We heard it from my friend, the gentleman from Michigan, 
and we heard it from the other gentleman from Michigan. This has been 
an all-Michigan presentation, with the gentlemen from Michigan, Mr. 
Dingell, Mr. Bonior, and Mr. Conyers. I am sorry we could not match you 
in Michiganders.
  But we heard about the minimum wage, we heard about the Consumer 
Product Safety Commission, we heard about everything but this bill. 
This bill protects a legitimate plaintiff. It does not do an awful lot 
for the plaintiff's lawyers, but they do pretty good anyway. I hate to 
say they are a special interest, but I do not think being a special 
interest is the worst thing in the world. So are teachers; so are 
Congressmen, for that matter.
  Mr. Speaker, I suggest that if Members want to maintain the status 
quo, then stay with the President. But if they agree with Senators 
Rockefeller and Lieberman and other Democrats, as well as ourselves, 
then vote to override.
  Mrs. COLLINS of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the 
Presidential veto of H.R. 956, and I do so for a number of reasons. 
First and foremost, is the fact that it is far from the commonsense 
reform that it has been advertised to be. While this legislation is 
bolstered by a good deal for Gingrich-Armey Republican rhetoric, it is 
supported by little empirical need.
  This bill as passed by the radical Republicans, goes against States' 
rights, it imposes arbitrary ceilings on punitive damages, eliminates 
joint liability for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering 
which prevents many persons from receiving full compensation when 
injured, and it unjustly discriminates against the most vulnerable 
members of our society--the elderly, the poor, the young, and women.
  Liability costs to American industries represent less than 1 percent 
of their total operating costs and the fact remains that all companies, 
both foreign and domestic, are subject to the same laws in each State 
as well as abroad. What the current product liability system has done 
is increased American innovation and our reputation for safe and 
reliable products--something in which we can take pride and must 
  Mr. Speaker, H.R. 956, as passed, represented an absolute Federal 
power grab in an area that has historically been the province of the 
States. As a popular phrase in my city of Chicago states, ``Stick 
around and the weather is bound to change,'' and it seems a similar 
phrase could be used to refer to the manner in which my friends on the 
other side of the aisle continue to legislate with respect to State's 
  Once again, the Gingrich-Armey Republicans have shoved down the 
throats of the American public a big business special aid bill, and we 
are thankful for a courageous President who isn't afraid to stand up 
for the people as he did when he vetoed this bill.
  People who have been wronged by negligence and failure of big 
business to address issues of safety and sanity deserve to be able to 
seek and get remedies that include monetary damages. This bill would 
only undermine the ability of courts to provide relief to victims of 
harmful products, and thereby take away incentives to protect the 
health and safety of the public.
  For these reasons, I urge my colleagues to vote to sustain the 
President's veto of H.R. 956.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Boehner). All time for debate has 
  Pursuant to the order of the House of Monday, May 6, 1996, the 
previous question is ordered.
  The question is, Will the House, on reconsideration, pass the bill, 
the objections of the President to the contrary notwithstanding?
  Under the Constitution this vote must be determined by the yeas and 

[[Page H4764]]

  The vote was taken by electronic device, and there were--yeas 258, 
nays 163, not voting 13, as follows:

                             [Roll No. 162]


     Baker (CA)
     Baker (LA)
     Barrett (NE)
     Bryant (TN)
     Collins (GA)
     Fields (TX)
     Franks (CT)
     Franks (NJ)
     Greene (UT)
     Hall (OH)
     Hall (TX)
     Hastings (WA)
     Johnson (CT)
     Johnson, Sam
     Lewis (CA)
     Lewis (KY)
     Miller (FL)
     Payne (VA)
     Smith (MI)
     Smith (NJ)
     Smith (TX)
     Smith (WA)
     Taylor (MS)
     Taylor (NC)
     Watts (OK)
     Weldon (FL)
     Young (AK)
     Young (FL)


     Barrett (WI)
     Brown (CA)
     Brown (FL)
     Brown (OH)
     Bryant (TX)
     Collins (IL)
     Collins (MI)
     de la Garza
     Fields (LA)
     Frank (MA)
     Green (TX)
     Hastings (FL)
     Jackson (IL)
     Jackson-Lee (TX)
     Johnson (SD)
     Johnson, E. B.
     Kennedy (MA)
     Kennedy (RI)
     Lewis (GA)
     Miller (CA)
     Payne (NJ)
     Peterson (FL)
     Peterson (MN)
     Watt (NC)

                             NOT VOTING--13

     Weldon (PA)

                              {time}  2011

  Mr. EDWARDS and Mr. HEFNER changed their vote from ``nay'' to 
  So, two-thirds not have voted in favor thereof, the veto of the 
President was sustained and the bill was rejected.
  The result of the vote was announced as above recorded.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Knollenberg). The bill and the message 
will be referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
  The Clerk will notify the Senate of the action of the House.