(Senate - September 28, 1999)

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[Pages S11553-S11554]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                   UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST--S. 761

  Mr. ABRAHAM. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the majority 
leader, after consultation with the Democratic leader, may proceed to 
the consideration of Calendar No. 243, S. 761, under the following 
limitations: There be 1 hour for debate equally divided in the usual 
form and the only amendment in order to the bill be a managers' 
substitute amendment to be offered by Senators Abraham and Leahy. I 
further ask consent that following the use or yielding back of time and 
the disposition of the substitute amendment, the committee substitute 
be agreed to, as amended, the bill be read a third time, and the Senate 
proceed to a vote on passage of S. 761, with no intervening action or 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  Mr. WELLSTONE. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, I ask my 
colleague from Michigan whether or not this unanimous consent request 
can be modified to include other amendments; for example, some 
amendments that deal with how we improve farm policy or amendments on 
minimum wage?
  Mr. ABRAHAM. Mr. President, at this time I cannot agree to such a 
  Mr. WELLSTONE. Mr. President, if that is the case, as I explained to 
the majority leader earlier, I am determined that I am going to have an 
opportunity as a Senator from Minnesota to come out here on the floor 
of the Senate and to fight for farmers who are losing their farms in my 
State, and therefore I object.

[[Page S11554]]

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.
  Mr. ABRAHAM. Mr. President, if I may comment, I certainly appreciate 
Senators will differ on issues, and I have talked with the Senator from 
Minnesota. I understand his feelings on the issue he would like to 
include, either in the context of legislation I am talking about 
tonight or in some other context. But I point out for the benefit of 
all of our colleagues that the legislation that was the subject of this 
unanimous consent proposal, S. 761, is a very important piece of 
legislation but not one I believe should become tied up in a variety of 
nongermane amendments and debate.
  The bill that would have been proposed, S. 761, is essentially a bill 
which would seek to make it feasible for us to engage in electronic 
commercial activities and to provide validity to what we call digital 
signatures or the authentication of digital signatures to allow for the 
expansion and continuing development of commercial activities over the 
  This legislation is needed, and it is my understanding, in efforts to 
secure unanimous consent to go to this, we have found as many as 99 
Members in support of this bill. That is not surprising. The States are 
in desperate hope we will pass this legislation and pass it soon.
  It left the Senate Commerce Committee, as the Presiding Officer 
knows, being a member of the committee, with unanimous support on a 
bipartisan basis. I have been pleased to offer this legislation, along 
with my colleague, Senator Wyden of Oregon, and a number of cosponsors.
  It was basically to this point uncontroversial. We have worked 
closely with Senator Leahy to come forward with a substitute which we 
are prepared ultimately to offer that I think addresses some concerns 
that had been expressed.
  The administration has expressed its support for the legislation as 
well. So I hope that we can, if not in the context of today, then at a 
point very soon, find some manner or means to pass the legislation and 
move it forward.
  Every day, the expansion of those who have access to the Internet is 
increasing. Every day, the activities of a commercial sort that go on 
through the Internet are increasing. What the people who are engaging 
in those commercial activities need is a certainty that their contracts 
over the Internet will be, in fact, authenticated and given full faith 
and credit. The absence of this legislation makes that issue somewhat 
in doubt.
  So while 42 States, I believe, have now passed their own digital 
signature laws, no 2 of these are alike. States are working hard at 
this time to come up with a uniform system and, in fact, a uniform code 
for digital signatures, and authentication has been developed but it 
has not yet been passed.
  In the interim, until that happens, in my judgment, we need to have a 
system in place. This legislation would provide it. It is strongly 
backed by the high-tech industries of our country. I know they will be 
contacting Members in the hope that we can move this forward because 
there are so many, as I have said already, increases in the use of the 
Internet for commercial activity going on every single day.
  So I deeply regret we could not move to this legislation tonight. I 
hope that as Senators with other agenda items consider ways to bring 
their items to the floor, they will find germane, as opposed to 
nongermane, vehicles to which to offer their amendments, or at least, 
at a minimum, they will not seek to stall this legislation any further.
  I think it is an important bill. I do not think it is controversial. 
But I think every day we go without its passage, we will create the 
potential for greater problems in regard to the expansion of commercial 
activity that takes place in this country through the Internet and 
through electronic means.
  So, Mr. President, I yield the floor. Hopefully, at a date very soon, 
I will be back so we can successfully move forward on this legislation.
  Mr. ASHCROFT addressed the Chair.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Missouri.
  Mr. ASHCROFT. I ask unanimous consent that I be recognized to speak 
for up to 30 minutes regarding the agricultural embargo issue.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.