(Extensions of Remarks - December 09, 2003)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E2490-E2491]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                           HON. RUSH D. HOLT

                             of new jersey

                    in the house of representatives

                        Monday, December 8, 2003

  Mr. HOLT. Mr. Speaker, thousands, even millions, of American workers 
today have their fingers, eyesight, even their lives because of the 
legislative work of former U.S. Senator Harrison ``Pete'' Williams of 
New Jersey. They will never know who they are.
  Millions of Americans have adequate retirement pensions or health 
care coverage because of the legislative work of Sen. Williams. They 
don't remember Pete Williams when they open their monthly benefits 
  As the author and champion of landmark legislation, Pete Williams 
gave the country the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), which 
is the single most important step in workplace safety in history, and 
he created the Employee Benefit Retirement and Income Security Act 
(ERISA) which helped guarantee minimum benefits for all working 
  Two years ago, former Senator Williams, who would have been 84 years 
old this week, died. He was retired after 4 years in this body and 
almost 24 years in the U.S. Senate. Since his death, neither body has 
given appropriate recognition to him and his contributions to America. 
A cloud has obscured his many great contributions.
  Pete Williams fought for a wide range of landmark laws to improve the 
quality of life for average Americans. As a member and longtime chair 
of the Committee on Labor and

[[Page E2491]]

Human Resources in the other body across the Capitol, he brought forth 
the Coal Mine and Health Safety Act; increases in the minimum wage in 
1966, 1974, and 1977; the Vocational Rehabilitation the Alcohol 
Rehabilitation Act; legislation preventing discrimination against 
pregnant workers; legislation preventing age discrimination; the 
Migrant Labor Health Act; legislation for special education; the Equal 
Employment Opportunity Act of 1972; legislation for college tuition 
assistance for needy students; legislation protecting the rights of 
workers to organize; and Meals on Wheels. Let me repeat: many of these 
are landmarks in American history. And that is not all; Pete Williams 
also produced legislation providing elderly housing, open space, arts 
funding, and marine mammal protection, and he led or contributed to 
many other laws. As my colleagues here know, it is customary for the 
President to give a pen from an important bill signing to each 
legislator who played a significant role in the bill. Pete Williams had 
seventy Presidential pens.
  As a young man working in the Senate, I first watched Senator 
Williams debate the 1964 Civil Rights Act and was impressed by his 
intellect and sincerity, qualities that defined his work as a United 
States Senator.
  Sometimes called the ``Voice for the Voiceless,'' Pete Williams spoke 
for many Americans who never knew him--never even knew of him. He did 
not need to work on the Migrant Labor Act; not many of those farm 
workers voted. He thought of those without privilege. He created the 
first standing subcommittee on aging and the first standing committee 
on issues related to physical disabilities. I noticed back in 1963 and 
1964 that Senator Williams was a man who paid attention to those who 
were sometimes invisible to others like him--the cafeteria workers, the 
pages, the elevator operators, the support staff. He was not a 
showboat, although New Jerseyans were so devoted to him that he was 
reelected with acclaim for four terms. In fact, he was the only 
Democrat in the state up to that time to be re-elected to the Senate.

  But he was not to be the ``Senator for life'' as he was sometimes 
called. In his fourth term in the U.S. Senate, he was implicated, along 
with six members of this body, in the so-called Abscam bribery sting 
and resigned under a cloud and served time in prison. His colleagues 
and historians have not known how to remember this man, how to tell his 
complicated story, how to commemorate his legacy--a legacy that 
includes what is one of the greatest legislative records for the 
benefit of Americans.
  Fighting expulsion from the Senate, Senator Williams averred his 
innocence and maintained that ``time, history and Almighty God [would] 
vindicate'' him. I hope historians will find the way to do justice to 
this man and his work.
  Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan described his friend and colleague 
Sen. Pete Williams as ``thoughtful, decent, and determined in all he 
did.'' Many colleagues wondered how sad a man could fall from grace. 
One might try to blame judgment weakened by alcohol or perhaps 
overzealous or dishonest federal agents or simple political 
vindictiveness. His is a cautionary tale for anyone in elective office 
or public service. The lesson is that there are always those who would 
take advantage of one's weaknesses. Pete Williams, author of the 
Vocational Rehabilitation Act and the Alcohol Rehabilitation Act, 
learned that there was no political rehabilitation act for him. But 
there is a more positive lesson, too; one person who works hard and 
shows compassion for others can improve the lives of others. History 
should not lose that more positive lesson of the career of Senator Pete