(Senate - May 24, 2012)

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[Pages S3535-S3536]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. REID. Mr. President, we are now considering S. 3187, the FDA user 
fees legislation. There is an agreement now reached to complete this 
legislation today. Under the agreement, debate time will expire at 2 
p.m. today, but if we are able to yield back time, up to 12 rollcall 
votes could begin earlier in order to complete action on the bill and 
to have a couple of votes in relation to the student loan interest rate 
hike. We will notify everyone if time is yielded back, but people 
should be aware of the need to come here--we hope before noon--to have 
a couple of votes. There will be no votes between 1 and 2 o'clock 
because of meetings both sides have.
  We also worked out a tentative agreement yesterday on flood 
insurance, which is important to 6 million people. We need to get that 
done today also. I hope we can get that done.
  I was pleased yesterday to reach an agreement with the Republican 
leader on how to move forward with this FDA bill. This legislation 
addresses shortages of lifesaving medicines by establishing a protocol 
to accomplish just that. It will ensure that FDA resources are there to 
approve new drugs and medical devices quickly and efficiently. We are 
going to consider, as I indicated, a number of relevant amendments. I 
am optimistic we will pass this strong, bipartisan bill.
  This week has been productive. We have not had to break or try to 
break a single Republican filibuster. That is a good day in Washington. 
It doesn't happen very often. I hope it happens more often. If this 
trend continues, we could return to the way we used to be; that is, do 
what is good for the country and not be trying to stop everything that 
comes along.
  I am also hopeful that this week the Senate will be able to find a 
path ahead to temporarily renew the Flood Insurance Program, as I have 
already indicated. We need a long-term solution to this problem. We 
have about 40,000 loans every day that are approved, and they are 
approved because you can make that check that you do have flood 
insurance. If there is no way to buy flood insurance, you cannot make 
that check in that box and you cannot get a loan. This would be 
devastating to our fragile economy, so we have to

[[Page S3536]]

get this done and get it done before the end of this month.
  The collaborative work on that measure and the FDA bill renews my 
hope that Congress will reach an agreement to prevent student loan 
interest rates from doubling for 7 million young men and women. We will 
move to two proposals to freeze student interest rates at their current 
levels. The Republican proposal is paid for by stripping Americans of 
lifesaving preventive health care. I can't say it any more clearly than 
that. It would be a shame to use that pay-for. That program has already 
been stripped bare. To take any more from it would really hurt the 
health of America. Our proposal is paid for by closing a loophole that 
allowed wealthy Americans to dodge their taxes. I am certainly aware of 
how things work around here. Neither one of these is going to pass, I 
am sorry to say. These two proposals were not created equal. But I hope 
a few reasonable Republicans will join with us. We should not 
put Americans' health at risk. We need to come to an agreement on the 
student loan issue. We only have until the end of June to do this.

  I also hope to resolve an issue dealing with paycheck fairness over 
the next work period. In addition to that, we are going to deal with 
the farm bill, flood insurance, as I have talked about, a small 
business tax relief program, cybersecurity, and some appropriations 
  In the last Congress we passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, 
named after a stalwart woman from the South who was in effect cheated 
out of pay she deserved. She did the same work as men for many years 
but didn't get the same money. She sought redress in the courts, and 
they said: No, you can't do that; you should have done that when you 
first started working there. She didn't know she was being cheated at 
that time. We changed the law. Now people in the same situation as 
Lilly Ledbetter are not going to be bound by some phony set of rules 
that prevent someone from filing a lawsuit when they have been 
  While the wage gap has narrowed in the five decades since Congress 
declared women entitled to equal pay for equal work, gender 
discrimination remains a serious problem in the workplace. The work we 
did with Lilly Ledbetter was the single most important piece of 
legislation to ensure women have a chance to protect themselves. It is 
something we should have done before. We didn't. It is done now. Women 
make up about half of today's workforce. More than half the students in 
our law schools are women. More than half the students in medical 
schools are women. They still, though, will only earn 77 cents on every 
dollar compared to their male colleagues for doing the same work, and 
with an increasing number of women leading American households, this is 
a problem that affects children and families across the country.
  The legislation, led by Senator Barbara Mikulski, the Paycheck 
Fairness Act, is a logical extension of protections under the Equal Pay 
Act. It will help close the gap by empowering women to negotiate for 
equal pay and creating strong incentives for employers to obey the laws 
already in place.
  Republicans deny waging war on women. Yet they have launched a series 
of attacks on women's access to health care and contraception this 
year. Now they have an opportunity to back up their excuses with 
action, and we are going to give them that opportunity. We hope they 
will join us and send a clear message that America values the 
incredible contributions women make every day.
  Would the Chair be so kind as to announce the work we are going to do 
here today.