PAYCHECK FAIRNESS ACT--MOTION TO PROCEED--Continued; Congressional Record Vol. 160, No. 56
(Senate - April 07, 2014)

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[Pages S2181-S2188]
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                          Jobs and the Economy

  Mr. PORTMAN. Mr. President, I rise tonight at a time when we face a 
quiet crisis in this country. President Obama and many on the other 
side of the aisle tell us the economy has improved, we have turned a 
corner, we are out of the woods, but I can tell my colleagues too many 
Americans are being left behind. In fact, historic numbers of Americans 
are disconnected from work. It is a quiet crisis. It is affecting them 
and their families. It is affecting our economy in very fundamental 
ways. It is one of the reasons we haven't seen the economic growth we 
had hoped for because not enough Americans are involved in active work 
because so many are out of work. The unemployment numbers, by the way, 
don't show the degree of the problem. An unemployment number around 7 
percent doesn't show the fact that a lot of folks have left the work 
force all together.
  This crisis includes also 3.7 million long-term unemployed. These are 
people who have been out of work for 6 months or more. This is also at 
historic levels. During this recent recession and during this weak 
recovery over the last 5 years, we have had numbers of long-term 
unemployed, over 6 months, at historic levels. In fact, the number of 
long-term unemployed right now is higher than it has been during any 
recession in our Nation's history, except for the most recent one 5 
years ago.
  Second, we have a lot of people who have left looking for work all 
together. So a lot of these folks were long-term unemployed, and they 
have now given up looking for work. Some 10.5 million Americans aren't 
even counted in the unemployment numbers because they have given up 
looking for work. The economists call this the labor participation 
rate. It is at historic lows for men, going back to the 1940s. In other 
words, more men are out of work--and that means not working or not even 
looking for a job--than we have ever had as a percentage of our 
population since we started keeping track of these statistics in the 
  For men and women combined, we can go back to the 1970s--the numbers 
are so low for the participation rate in work. That goes back to the 
Carter era, when we had double-digit unemployment, double-digit 
inflation, and double-digit interest rates. We have to go back to that 
economy that was cratering in order to see the numbers of people who 
are out of work, not looking for work, and not even trying.
  So we have a real problem in this country, and we are not addressing 
it. To make matters worse, people are saying: Well, Rob, this is 
actually the baby boomers, and it is people retiring early, so it is 
not that bad. That is not true. To make matters worse, it is a lot of 
young people. There was a recent Brookings study that came out a couple 
weeks ago which indicates that actually a lot of the problem is young 
men, single men, who are choosing not to work or cannot find a job and, 
therefore, they drop out of the workforce altogether. Again, this is 
not reflected in the unemployment numbers. This is not even reflected 
in the long-term unemployment numbers.
  Disappointment after disappointment for many of these workers leads 
them to give up looking for work altogether. These Americans feel as if 
what we are doing here in Washington does not really affect them and 
their lives. They feel as if we are not dealing with this issue, so the 
underemployed, the unemployed, the long-term unemployed--the folks who 
are so disconnected from work that they are not even looking for a 
job--they are looking at us in Washington saying: What are you going to 
do to help?
  They are the reason I supported tonight this extension of 
unemployment insurance. Now, this was not exactly the legislation I 
wanted. But, also, it is not exactly the legislation that was brought 
to the floor. The other side of the aisle, the Democrats, brought 
legislation to the floor that was a long-term extension on an emergency 
basis. This is for people who have been out of work for over 26 weeks. 
This is the Federal addition to the State unemployment insurance that 
generally is in place for people for up to 26 weeks. The Democratic 
version was long-term--over a year. It also was not paid for, which 
would take us further into debt and deficit, which would hurt the 
economy. It also did not have any reforms.
  The legislation that passed tonight with my vote--and some other 
Republicans--had three things. No. 1, it is

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short term--5 months instead of a year. No. 2, it is paid for, so it 
does not take us further into debt and deficit. No. 3, it does have 
some reforms to try to make the unemployment system work better to help 
these people who are long-term unemployed who otherwise have very 
little prospect of getting gainful employment, being productive members 
of our economy.
  In fact, there are some studies out there saying that only 10 to 15 
percent of them would normally be likely to get a job once they are out 
of work for 6 months or more because of the resume gap, because of the 
skills gap. So we have in this legislation--that I will talk about 
later in more detail--some reforms that add some skills training for 
the long-term unemployed. The notion here is that there are jobs 
available out there, and there are a lot of people, as we talked about, 
who are out of work--or the long-term unemployed, in this case--but 
they do not have the skills to match the jobs that are out there. So 
the notion is to bring the skills and the jobs together to deal with 
the skills gap.
  Most on my side of the aisle--all but, I think, six of us--were 
against this unemployment extension because they argued that, instead, 
we need progrowth policies to get this economy moving. I totally agree 
with them about the progrowth policies. The ultimate solution here is 
not another extension of unemployment insurance; it is to reform the 
program rather than just have another check, to add the skills 
training, which we will talk about in a second. We need to do more 
there, but we also have to do what Jack Kennedy used to talk about. 
President Kennedy said, famously: A rising tide lifts all boats.
  We need a rising tide. We need to create more economic growth and 
opportunity, and there is a plan to do this. It is called the Jobs for 
America Plan. The Senate Republicans have all signed off on it. It has 
seven elements, all of which make a lot of sense.
  One is to ensure, on health care, we actually reduce the cost, 
increase choice. The economy is hurting now because the costs are going 
up, not down, and sometimes dramatically.
  Another is an all-of-the-above energy strategy, to use the energy 
here in the ground; having an all-of-the-above energy strategy to get 
America's economy going, moving our economy forward. We can do a lot 
more there.
  Another is living within our means. The reason this unemployment 
insurance extension was paid for is because we Republicans insisted on 
it. Why? Because the debt and deficit are like a wet blanket over the 
economy. We do have to keep ourselves from going further into debt with 
our $17 trillion debt.
  Another is having Tax Code reforms that are necessary to spur 
economic growth. Both on the individual side and the business side our 
Tax Code is antiquated and inefficient. It will help to give the 
economy a shot in the arm if we can reform the Tax Code.
  Another deals with regulations, unshackling job creators, helping to 
ensure that regulations are sensible, that they are not making it more 
difficult for small businesses to create jobs and opportunity. This is 
something we should be doing on a bipartisan basis.
  Another is increasing exports. That means jobs. This President, this 
administration, has not been able to move forward with any export 
agreements because the President has not been able to get trade 
promotion authority. In fact, some on the other side of the aisle have 
said he will not get it. That would be tragic for America's workers, 
for America's farmers, for the people who provide services, who want to 
push for more exports because they create good-paying jobs and good 
  Then, finally, and significantly, part of this Republican plan for 
jobs is to create a competitive workforce to close the skills gap. That 
is what we are talking about here with the unemployment insurance 
issue. We need to ensure that our workforce is meeting the needs of the 
21st century--meaning a lot of technology jobs, even in manufacturing, 
advanced manufacturing, bioscience jobs, information technology jobs. 
Those jobs are out there, as I said earlier. But, unfortunately, the 
Federal Government has not done a good job in providing the skills, 
giving people the tools to access those jobs.
  So we have made some steps in this legislation. The legislation we 
passed tonight ensures that job training reforms are part of long-term 
unemployment insurance. The reforms require officials to connect with 
the unemployed early in the process and provide important information 
they are now not getting about the skills and credentials that 
businesses in their area, in their region, are looking for.
  We have also included provisions to strengthen the skills assessment 
process to ensure that the long-term unemployed have a better idea of 
the specific skills necessary to become more competitive in the job 
market. That assessment is really important. A lot of these folks are 
starting to give up hope. The assessment is important for them to 
understand where they are and where they can be.
  These measures are intended to give the unemployed the opportunity to 
attain critical skills and credentials that are regionally relevant and 
nationally portable so they can access not only available jobs in their 
area but so that they can find other jobs around the country. There are 
some States, as you know, where you have unemployment as low as 3 
percent, and other States where unemployment is as high as 9 percent. 
So people do need to know what the opportunities are, should they be 
able and willing to move.
  So that is part of this unemployment extension we did tonight, and 
that is something that was put in place because of negotiations between 
Republicans and Democrats alike to ensure that, yes, it was paid for, 
and, yes, it was not long term--it was short term--and, third, that we 
did put some skills training in place. I want to thank Senator Jack 
Reed, Senator Dean Heller, and others who worked with us to ensure that 
was part of this package.
  But, folks, that is just the beginning. We have to do a lot more in 
terms of ensuring that our workforce programs in the Federal Government 
are meeting the needs of the 21st century.

  So part of the Republican jobs plan is to say: Let's take the next 
step. By the way, there is a commitment from both sides of the aisle, 
from the people who worked this out, to work during this short-term 
extension to try to increase the opportunities to provide people the 
tools they need.
  We have big problems, as I said. We have a lot of people who are 
long-term unemployed. It is at historic levels. We have historic levels 
of people who are disconnected from work altogether, and yet we have 
jobs that are out there and available.
  They say there are 3.9 million jobs around the country currently 
available and unfilled--3.9 million jobs. That means about 25 percent 
of those who are out of the workforce could have an opportunity for a 
job if they had the skills and had the ability to meet the requirements 
for those jobs.
  In Ohio, we have over 100,000 jobs available. You can go on the Web 
site and see them. These are not just part-time or minimum-wage 
positions. According to a recent study, Ohio is third--behind only 
California and Texas--in skilled factory job openings, full-time jobs 
with benefits that often turn into long-term careers.
  The problem of chronic unemployment is holding back our economy. By 
not having the people to fill those jobs, the economy is not reaching 
its potential. In fact, some of those jobs are going overseas to find 
those skilled workers. The Manufacturing Institute recently concluded 
that 74 percent of manufacturers are experiencing workforce shortages 
or skills deficiency that keeps them from expanding their operations; 
74 percent of manufacturers are not expanding plants and equipment and 
creating more jobs, as they could, because they do not have the 
  So I view this unemployment insurance debate as an opportunity--an 
opportunity to talk about this issue, an opportunity to put in place 
some initial reforms, some first steps for more skills assessment, more 
training, to encourage people to get the credentials they need to get a 
job. But it is only the first step. We should do much, much more.
  The Federal Government is already very involved, by the way, in work 
retraining--not in a very productive way but very involved. There are 
47 different Federal workforce training programs spread over 7, 8 or 9 

[[Page S2183]]

and agencies, often overlapping. Often the right hand does not know 
what the left hand is doing. It costs us, by the way, as taxpayers 
about $15 billion a year. So about $15 billion a year is going into 
worker retraining. Yet look at the results--again, record numbers of 
the long-term unemployed, record numbers of men disconnected from work. 
Something is not working.
  The Government Accountability Office found that very little is known 
about the effectiveness of these 47 programs. They have said, 
unbelievably, that only five of these Federal programs have conducted 
an impact study of their efforts since 2004. So 47 programs and only 5 
have conducted the kind of performance measures you would expect the 
government to do to be sure the taxpayers' money is being spent right 
and that you certainly would be doing in the private sector.
  The GAO is kind of generous in its assessment because those millions 
of unfilled jobs and millions more struggling workers are as 
incriminating an indictment of our worker training programs as any 
impact study could ever be.
  This is the story I hear all the time. Back home in Ohio, when I talk 
to workers, when I talk to businesses, when I talk to educators, people 
are frustrated. People are seeing these Federal dollars being spent but 
not for actual training. What is unbelievable to me is recent data 
shows us that the number of credentials people are getting through 
these Federal workforce training programs is actually going down, not 
up--at a time when it is clear that credentials are a key way to get a 
  It is unfair to employers who have open positions that they cannot 
find qualified candidates to fill them. It is unfair to taxpayers who 
send money to Washington believing the government is going to be a good 
steward of those funds, and it is not. And, of course, it is unfair to 
the millions of Americans who want to build a better life for 
themselves and for their families, but they need the tools.
  A lot of jobs were lost in this last recession. Unfortunately, I 
believe a lot of them are not coming back. But other jobs are being 
created. But, again, they are jobs that require a higher level of 
skill. We have to be sure we are doing a better job providing people 
with those tools to get the skills they need. It is part of the plan 
that Senate Republicans are talking about.
  A small step was taken tonight with the unemployment insurance 
extension. I do not think we necessarily explained it very well to all 
of our colleagues, but it was part of what happened tonight on the 
floor of the Senate. I am hopeful over the next few months we will take 
the next important step, which is actually to change the way these 
Federal programs work so they are more effective at dealing with this 
  I have a specific proposal that I like. It is called the CAREER Act. 
The CAREER Act--you can look at it on line. Go to 
My cosponsor is Michael Bennet, who spoke here earlier tonight. He is a 
Democrat from Colorado. He is a former education superintendent. He 
understands we need to change these programs to make them more 
efficient. To incentivize success, we have performance measures in our 
proposal, for instance. We do need to streamline and consolidate these 
programs. We also need to be sure we are rewarding job training 
providers that produce measurable results in actual job placement. It 
seems it is a pretty simple concept, but it is not happening now, as 
the GAO told us.
  The unemployment extension, in my view, buys us a couple more months. 
But that is time where we ought to be doing the hard work to ensure 
that workers have the skills they need to compete in this global 
economy. Again, companies look globally for workers these days--
particularly larger companies. If we are not providing the skilled 
workforce here, our economy is not as productive as it could be, not 
meeting its potential, the rising tide is not lifting all boats because 
it is not rising. But we are also going to lose jobs overseas where 
there is more focus on the STEM disciplines, on engineering and math, 
on skills training.
  We have to do a much better job at the Federal Government level, 
working with the States, working with the private sector. One thing we 
do in the CAREER Act is we connect the Federal funds with the actual 
private-sector jobs that out there to ensure we are getting a better 
result--not training people for jobs that are not even available.
  So let's spend these next few months working on more strategies to 
help folks get jobs. Let's work on all of this because we need to have 
a growing economy. But with regard to the training part, let's fix a 
system that is not serving the unemployed. It is not serving the 
taxpayer. Let's deal with this crisis. Let's restore hope and 
opportunity to America's workers.
  With that, I yield back my time.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from North Carolina.

                          Wage Discrimination

  Mrs. HAGAN. Mr. President, I rise to join with my colleagues in 
addressing an issue that affects women and families across America 
every day; that is, wage discrimination. Over 50 years have passed 
since the Equal Pay Act was signed into law to require that men and 
women earn equal pay for equal work. Yet the wage gap between men and 
women remains persistently wide.
  Tomorrow, April 8, is Equal Pay Day, the day that women's earnings 
finally catch up to what men earned during the previous calendar year. 
Women across our country have had to work more than 3 months into this 
year to match what their male colleagues made in 2013. It is time to 
end gender discrimination in pay.
  That is why I am proud to again stand on the Senate floor as a 
cosponsor and strong supporter of the Paycheck Fairness Act. This 
important bill would close loopholes in our existing equal pay laws and 
ensure that gender-based pay discrimination cannot happen in the first 
  Some still question why we need this legislation. The numbers make it 
pretty clear. More than 50 years after the Equal Pay Act was passed 
women in America still earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by 
men. In North Carolina it is a little better but still far from equal. 
Women earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by men doing the same work. 
To be sure, we have seen remarkable progress among women in North 
Carolina over the last 20 years.
  Women have higher levels of education than men of the same age, and 
the share of employed women in my State who work in managerial and 
professional occupations has increased from 26 to 40 percent. While 
increased education has improved women's pay, it has not reduced the 
pay gap. Men are earning more money than women across all major sectors 
of the economy and at every educational level.
  In fact, women in North Carolina who have some college education or 
an associates degree still earn less on average than men who have only 
received a high school diploma. In 2014, that is simply unacceptable.
  I will never forget a constituent whom I met at an event back home in 
North Carolina. A woman had her young son with her. They both had T-
shirts on that had a number on the front. The mother's shirt said 
``94.'' The son's shirt said ``50.'' If earnings continue at the slow 
pace at which they are growing now, those numbers, the 94 and the 50, 
signify the ages those two individuals will be when pay equality is 
finally achieved.
  Sadly, at the rate we are progressing, most of us in the Senate will 
not live to see that day. We cannot afford to wait another few decades 
for this change. This wage gap has real consequences, not just for 
women but for their families too. In North Carolina alone, women head 
over 500,000 households. Women and families' economic security is put 
at risk when they are paid less than men for performing the same job.
  In North Carolina women who are employed full time lose approximately 
$9.8 billion each year due to the wage gap. Once again, just in North 
Carolina, these women, employed full time, lose approximately $9.8 
billion. That is real money. That is money that could be spent on a 
downpayment or a mortgage for a home, put away for their child's 
college savings or invested in a secure retirement.
  Also in North Carolina there are 108,000 households with incomes 
below the poverty line headed by women. Closing the wage gap would help 
put food on the table for them, gas in their

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car, and pay basic necessities such as rent and utilities. In fact, 
closing the wage gap would allow a working woman in North Carolina to 
afford 63 more weeks of food, 6 more months of mortgage and utility 
payments, 10 more months of rent or 2,200 additional gallons of gas by 
changing that wage gap.
  Addressing those disparities is critical to promoting the well-being 
of local economies across North Carolina and nationwide. When women 
thrive at work, their families and communities prosper as well. Later 
this week I will be voting for equal pay and to end wage 
discrimination. I am hopeful that partisan gamesmanship does not get in 
the way of a bipartisan issue that Democrats and Republicans, women and 
men across the country, overwhelmingly support. Congress needs to come 
together and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act because we need a stronger 
equal pay law to prohibit employers from retaliating against employees 
who discuss salary information with their coworkers. We need a stronger 
equal pay law to empower women to better negotiate their salaries and 
wages. We need a stronger equal pay law to provide businesses, 
especially small ones, assistance with equal pay practices.
  On this eve of the anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, we need to close 
the loophole that allows pay discrimination to happen in the first 
place. The Paycheck Fairness Act would do just that by helping women 
successfully fight for the equal pay they have earned. In today's tough 
economic landscape, equal pay is about more than just principle, it is 
about ensuring an economically sound future for all of our families.
  I yield the floor and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


  Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, I come to the floor to speak to two 
issues, both in the Western Hemisphere, that I think are incredibly 
important. I come to the floor to speak about labor rights in Colombia 
and labor rights of workers around the world.
  Three years ago today the U.S. and Colombian Governments announced 
the creation of a Labor Action Plan that identified concrete steps to 
address the challenges faced by Colombian workers--threats, deadly 
violence, and widespread informality that opens the door to worker 
  Both governments said that the implementation of the plan would be a 
precondition to enacting the free-trade agreement between our two 
countries. At the time I advocated that the standards laid out in the 
Labor Action Plan should have been part of the formal free-trade 
agreement and should have included provisions for monitoring the plan's 
  It is true that the Colombian Government initially made impressive 
steps, but unfortunately other aspects of the plan have not been 
fulfilled. Today the AFL-CIO and Colombia's National Union School have 
released reports evaluating the Labor Action Plan and identifying key 
areas where implementation has fallen short. I come to the floor to 
share these key findings.
  In February I traveled to Colombia and met with Colombian union 
leaders and representatives of the National Labor School. I had a 
chance to meet with President Santos and Minister of Labor Rafael 
Pardo. We had the opportunity to review the important steps the 
Colombian Government has taken and what still needs to be done.
  Shortly after the Labor Action Plan was established in April of 2011, 
nearly overnight Colombia established an independent Ministry of Labor. 
To date, the Ministry has hired more than 480 new labor inspectors and 
created a formal complaint mechanism for workers and unionists.
  The Colombian Government reformed its penal code to strengthen 
sanctions against employers violating rights to free association. The 
Ministry of Labor has opened nearly 400 investigations of violations 
and issued nearly 70 sanctions. The government has directed its 
protection units to concentrate efforts on labor activists who are 
under threat. As a result of these steps, Colombia has made progress. 
According to the Colombian Government's own statistics, more than 
530,000 jobs have been formalized in accordance with government 
  While it is important to acknowledge the progress that has been made, 
the reports released today by the AFL-CIO and Colombia's National Union 
School remind us that much more needs to be done. Aspects of the Labor 
Action Plan remain unfinished and risks to Colombian workers continue, 
specifically in the palm oil industry, sugar sector, oil industry, and 
ports sector.
  Both reports point out, while some trade unionists have seen better 
protection from the government, others continue to face threats and 
violence. In 2013, 26 trade unionists were murdered. Equally troubling 
was the fact that in the cases of murdered trade unionists, 86.8 
percent go unresolved in terms of the cases. The two reports recognize 
that in response to the Labor Action Plan, the Colombian Government 
took steps to address irregular contracting practices, specifically 
focusing on associated work cooperatives or CTAs as they are known.
  But given the loopholes in new labor regulations that have come to 
light, the government has been unable to stem the rise of alternate 
hiring, such as simplified joint stock companies that keep workers from 
being directly hired and being entitled to benefits and collective 
bargaining rights. So there has been progress but clearly more needs to 
be done.
  The report rightfully applauds the creation of the Ministry of Labor 
but also notes that the hiring of labor inspectors did not comply with 
international labor organization standards, severely affecting these 
inspectors' autonomy and technical capacity. As further evidence of the 
challenges of informal labor arrangements, a majority of labor 
inspectors are provisional hires.
  When it comes to finding those guilty of violations, the Colombian 
Government has levied millions of dollars in fines against companies 
violating labor standards, but both the AFL-CIO and the National Labor 
School point out that not a single dollar of those millions of fines 
has been collected--not one.
  Fines hardly constitute a deterrent if companies know they will never 
have to pay the bill. As the U.S. and Colombian Governments along with 
organized labor in the United States and Colombia look forward, it is 
important that everyone come to the table, identify targeted goals, and 
establish benchmarks that will bring the kind of change we are all 
looking for, lasting change that protects workers and worker rights.
  Given that the United States and Colombia renewed the Labor Action 
Plan through the end of 2014, now is the time to renew political 
commitment. Now is the time for collective action. Having met with 
Minister Pardo and knowing our colleagues in the Department of Labor, I 
know the political will is there. Now is the time for swift action.
  Lessons from Colombia should be lessons for all of us, as the United 
States continues to engage in trade negotiations around the world. Our 
trade agreements must include the highest labor standards, concrete 
benchmarks for guaranteeing compliance with these standards, and a 
clear plan to monitor implementation. Anything less will leave the most 
vulnerable around the world at risk.
  We are moving in the right direction when it comes to protecting 
workers and workers' rights in Colombia and around the world. Let's 
keep moving forward and aspire to the highest labor standards in every 
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. MENENDEZ. I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum 
call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


  Mr. MENENDEZ. As the attention of the world has been focused on the 
pre-1991 Soviet behavior of President Putin in Crimea, I come to the 
floor to remind the American public and Members of this body that there 
is also a full-fledged humanitarian rights crisis ongoing in our own 
hemisphere, just 90 miles away from our shores in Cuba.

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  As Ukrainians courageously fight to protect the democracy they won 
when the Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago this summer, the Cuban people 
continue to suffer from the oppression of a Soviet-style dictatorship 
that denies them the most basic rights. When the Soviet Union dissolved 
in 1991, millions of people--from Kiev to Budapest to Africa to Asia--
were given their first chances in decades to build their own 
governments, a first chance to organize democratic elections, the 
chance to begin to determine their own futures.
  Since the end of the Cold War, peace, prosperity and progress has 
largely been the order of the day for hundreds of millions of people 
but not for the people of Cuba. Not one of those core principles of 
democracy can be found on the island. Fidel and Raul Castro have been 
the only names on any ballot in over 50 years. Not one free election 
has been held, not one Cuban has been allowed to own their own company, 
not one legitimate trade union has been allowed to be organized, and 
not one peaceful protest has occurred without being brutally squashed 
by the regime.
  No, this is the reality of Cuba today. It was the reality when the 
Berlin Wall fell, and it has been Cuba's reality for almost 60 years 
since Fidel Castro began taking control of every aspect of Cuban life. 
This reality in Cuba, a decades-long brutal oppression of simple human 
democratic rights, with total disdain for the aspirations of a people 
by the Castro regime, its military and communist lackey thugs who 
penetrate and control people's lives at all levels, should not be 
overlooked, should not be romanticized and it can never be explained 
  But, unlike Ukraine, where we have watched in horror as people have 
been ruthlessly beaten and killed for simply aspiring to democratic and 
transparent government, the Castro regime does not allow images of its 
oppression to be broadcast around the globe, let alone at home. Just 
because we do not see those images streaming across television sets and 
in the newspapers does not mean the world should not be watching. It 
does not mean we have turned the other way, and it does not mean we 
have overlooked the brutal and oftentimes lethal oppression of the 
Castro regime.
  The number of people the regime has murdered or abducted is in the 
tens of thousands. Hundreds of thousands of children have been 
separated from their parents, maybe hundreds of thousands of families 
have been torn apart. We don't even know how many have died in the 
Florida straits in search of freedom.
  Millions of men, women, and young people have been forced into fields 
to cut sugarcane and perform other hard labor against their will. The 
average human worker lives on an income of less than $1 a day. The 
Castro regime has been most adept--not at spreading education and 
prosperity--I listened to some of my colleagues recently on the floor 
and, oh my God, what a paradise, a paradise that people are willing to 
take to makeshift rafts to flee from and die on the high seas, a 
paradise that has long lines at the U.S. interests section waiting to 
be able to come to the United States, such a paradise that there are 
well over 1 million Cuban Americans in the United States and others in 
Spain and throughout the world.
  It is not a paradise that I think people flee from. But they are 
great--not at spreading education and prosperity, but at instilling a 
penetrating fear and terror in the style of a Stalinist police state. 
It has been going on since 1959. Unfortunately, these are all of the 
realities. It is not a thing of the past.
  Let us not overlook the fact that arbitrary and politically motivated 
arrests in Cuba reportedly topped 1,000 for a third straight month this 
February, according to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and 
National Reconciliation, a group inside of Cuba, formed and founded by 
Elizardo Sanchez Santa-Cruz--whose mission is to bring change and 
freedom--to report to the world. The commission reported that:

       . . . arrests in the past three months have nearly doubled 
     from the monthly averages of the previous 2 years.

  We must remind ourselves every day of the continued oppression and 
human suffering that is happening, not halfway around the world but 90 
miles from our own shores. The ongoing oppressive behavior of the Cuban 
regime we saw for the last half of the 20th century still haunts our 
hemisphere today.
  While Putin has annexed Crimea, while one wonders what is next, while 
Assad continues to kill his own people in Syria, while the world is 
watching the Taliban in Afghanistan, and violence continues in the 
Central African Republic taking countless lives, the oppression of the 
Castro regime keeps rolling along unabated.
  If there is a single symbol of that oppression, of the longing for 
freedom in Cuba, it is the Ladies in White, Damas de Blanco, and their 
leader Berta Soler.
  This is a picture of Berta. The courage she has displayed, along with 
all the other women, to promote democracy and political freedom in Cuba 
has served as an extraordinary example for all of us and everyone 
around the world who longs to be free. Every Sunday they protest the 
jailing of their relatives by attending mass and quietly marching 
through the streets of Havana, praying for nothing more than the 
freedom of their relatives and respect for the human rights of all 
  But, as we see in this picture, often arrested, roughed-up--let's go 
to the previous picture. These are some of the of the Ladies in White. 
All they do is dress up in white, they march with a gladiola--quietly--
toward church. The response of the state regime is to detain them, beat 
them, jail them, and hold them for days, maybe weeks. They are 
released, then jailed again.
  The Ladies in White are the symbol of freedom, and women such as 
Laura Pollan represent the story of thousands. She was a schoolteacher 
living with her husband Hector, the leader of the outlawed Cuban 
Liberal Party. They were living a normal life in a small house on 
Neptune Street in Havana.

  Early one morning there was a pounding on the front door. The police 
came in, searched everything. There was a sham trial held in Cuba. 
Hector was imprisoned, sentenced to 20 years in jail, and accused of 
acting against national security. His crime was dreaming of a free Cuba 
and putting that dream in writing.
  Since I last came to the floor to speak about Cuba, I met Rosa Maria 
Paya, the daughter of the long-time political activist Oswaldo Paya. He 
was a Catholic and head of the Christian Liberation Movement who 
collected 25,000 signatures under a project called the Varela Project, 
a peaceful effort to petition the regime under the existing Cuban 
Constitution for freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. For his 
peaceful efforts he was awarded the Sakharov prize by the European 
  His peaceful efforts were seen as a danger to the regime, a threat 
for which he was detained and arrested many times. Many times he 
suffered at the hands of the regime, and last year he died in Cuba, 
killed as Cuban state security rammed his car off the road.
  What we know is that the car, driven by a Spanish politician from 
Spain, Angel Carromero, a citizen of Spain, and Jens Aron Modig, a 
party activist in Sweden, was involved in the fatal automobile accident 
that killed Paya and his Cuban colleague Harold Cepero. The 
circumstances surrounding Paya's death lead any reasonable person to 
conclude what really happened on that road in eastern Cuba that took 
the life of Oswaldo was an assassination. His daughter Rosa Maria 
immediately challenged the regime's version of events, stating that the 
family had received information from the survivors that their car was 
repeatedly rammed by another vehicle. She said:

       So we think it's not an accident. They wanted to do harm 
     and then ended up killing my father.

  Ms. Paya was in Washington not long ago accepting a posthumous award 
from the National Endowment for Democracy on behalf of another Cuban 
activist who died alongside her father. At the time the U.N. Ambassador 
to the United Nations Samantha Power had come before the Foreign 
Relations Committee during the nominations process and assured me she 
would reach out to Ms. Paya when confirmed. Since then, she has not 
only met with Rosa Maria but also to directly challenge Cuba's Foreign 
Minister to permit an independent international investigation into Mr. 
Paya's death.
  I want to commend Ambassador Power for standing with those still 
suffering in Cuba and with the family of

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Oswaldo Paya who died for advocating peaceful, democratic change and 
Christian values.
  But Cuba's reach doesn't end with the detention or the death of 
dissidents such as Paya. It doesn't end at the water's edge. It goes 
much farther.
  Cuba is the head of a new and dire crisis in our hemisphere that we 
cannot ignore, and now we see the same oppression of peaceful activists 
in Cuba on the streets of Caracas.
  Venezuela's political crisis is growing: 40 dead, hundreds injured, 
the nation's economy deteriorating, inflation at record levels, and a 
scarcity of basic food and goods. It sounds like Cuba to me.
  But behind Venezuela's economic crisis we can see Cuba's failed 
policies, expropriation, and nationalization of various sectors of the 
economy, fixed prices in the consumer economy, criminalization of 
business leaders and their companies, currency manipulation, and 
rationing of basic foodstuffs. Behind Venezuela's political crisis we 
can clearly see familiar Cuban tactics--the demonization of the 
dissent, intolerance, and oppression of any form of opposition, 
politicizing of the military and judiciary, the silencing of 
independent television and radio stations, the shutting down of 
newspapers, and the arrests of political opponents doing nothing more 
than exercising basic rights to freedom of assembly.
  We see Cuba's destabilizing presence is deeply intertwined in 
Venezuela's crisis, not simply because of the actions but because of 
these facts. It started with the discovery of 29 Cuban spies on 
Margarita Island in Venezuela.
  It grew steadily and insidiously throughout the Chavez years with the 
Cuban presence and key advisers from Havana in almost every institution 
of national government in Venezuela, from the military, to intelligence 
agencies, to the health sector, to industrial policy. And the result? 
Democracy subverted and innocent people dying from bullets fired by the 
government and its thugs, just like in Cuba.
  Yet knowing the instability the Cuban regime continues to spread, 
amazing, amazing European nations, nations in Latin America, then the 
Caribbean, some of my colleagues in this Chamber are seeking new 
opportunities to engage the Cuban regime by easing sanctions at a 
critical moment and fundamentally redefining our relationship with 
  I couldn't disagree more. We can never turn our back on what has 
happened and continues to happen inside of Cuba. We can never have a 
wink and a nod and say, well, it has been almost 50 years, that is long 
enough. Things are changing for the better in Cuba so we should ease 
sanctions when, in fact, that is not the case at all.
  As I listen to these human rights activists who finally have been 
able to come from Cuba and visit with us, to a person, they have said 
to me when I have asked them, is there change? They laugh and say: 
Senator, no, of course, there is no change. Is there a change in the 
economic system? No, there is no change. Is there change in your 
ability to organize? No, there is no change.
  They call for some of the most significant measures that I could 
imagine--based upon them being in the belly of the beast, not some 
romanticism from outside. So, no, we should not ease sanctions. That is 
not what they are calling for. We should not let up and we should not 
reward the Castro regime for its human rights violations, for the 
suffering it continues to cause the people of Cuba. We should not 
reward the regime of the long dark years that have been brought to the 
island. And we should not ease tourism restrictions simply because the 
clock is ticking. Those who wish to pursue that type of engagement with 
Cuba must not forget Cuba's history. It is also its present state of 
torture and oppression, its systemic curtailment of freedom.
  Recent events tell us a different story than those who have the sense 
of romanticism about the Castro regime. It is the story of two 
terrorist states: Cuba and North Korea.
  There is unshakable, undeniable, incontrovertible proof that the 
Cuban Government, colluding with North Korea, violated United Nations 
security sanctions regimes.
  In July of last year, a North Korean ship was docked in Cuba's new 
Mariel Port facility. The North Korean ship--suspicious even to the 
most untrained observer--left the dock, and it wasn't long afterward it 
was seized by the Panamanian Government when it attempted to enter the 
Panama Canal. Panamanian authorities boarded the ship and what did they 
find? There in the cargo bays, under some 200,000 bags of sugar, 
authorities discovered 240 tons of weapons--bound for where? For where? 
North Korea, another terrorist state.
  Apparently this evidence, to some of my colleagues, is not of 
concern, but that is not the end of the story. When authorities 
inventoried the 240 tons of weapons hidden beneath the 200,000 bags of 
sugar they found on the North Korean ship, they found 2 MiG aircraft, 
several SA-2, SA-3 surface-to-air missile systems, missile and radar 
components, and a cache of small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.
  This is a depiction from the U.N. sources of what was found. I ask my 
colleagues, is this the behavior of a tired and old, benign regime, one 
that deserves our sympathy? Is there a misunderstanding that does not 
check enough terrorist boxes? Is this something we should justifiably 
ignore, falling under the category of Castro will be Castro or is this, 
at its core, the active and dangerous play of a terrorist state that we 
would not tolerate from any other Nation?
  It seems to me that supplying a rogue nation such as North Korea with 
a secret cache of weapons demands something more than the loosening of 
travel restrictions and the opening of trade. It demands exactly the 
opposite. We should treat Cuba and the Castro regime as we would treat 
any other state sponsor of terrorism, because it is. Yet here I am once 
again forced to come to the floor of the Senate to point to pictures of 
a North Korean ship in a Cuban port smuggling MiG aircraft and surface-
to-air missiles and ask: Why should we turn a blind eye to what we 
clearly would not accept from Iran, Syria or Sudan? And why in God's 
name would we want to take this opportunity to reward the regime with 
cashflow so they can continue to oppress their people and subvert 
neighboring countries? Why should we accept the lame excuses given by 
the Cuban regime that somehow--despite the fact that many of the arms 
were still in their original packaging, despite the fact that others 
had been recently calibrated, despite the fact there was a fresh coat 
of paint over the insignia of the Cuban Air Force on the side of the 
MiGs to hide their origin, despite the fact that the entire shipment 
was covered with 200,000 bags of sugar to deceive--this was a purely 
innocent business transaction, an innocent business transaction, and 
that the arms were being sent to North Korea for maintenance and would 
have been returned to the island?
  Does anyone actually believe such a ludicrous claim? Can we and 
should we simply ignore it and move on, even though U.N. weapons 
inspectors found that the shipment was a clear violation--a clear 
violation--of U.N. sanctions, that Cuba was the first country in the 
Western Hemisphere to violate international sanctions related to North 
Korea and that the shipment constituted the largest amount of arms 
shipped to or from North Korea since the adoption of Security Council 
resolution 1874 in 2009 and resolution 2094 in 2013? I repeat, the 
largest amount of arms shipped to or from North Korea. If that is not 
food for thought when it comes to easing restrictions against a 
terrorist state to our south, I don't know what is.
  In recent years some would have us believe--and I have listened to 
some of my colleagues--that reforms led by Raul Castro placed Cuba on a 
path to economic progress, but if we look at the new law on foreign 
investment Cuba just passed last week, we get a clearer picture of the 
truth behind Cuba's economic model.
  Let's be clear about this economic model. Under Cuba's new foreign 
investment law, investment projects will be allowed to be fully funded 
by foreign capital, business taxes on profits would be cut by 50 
percent, foreign companies would be exempt from paying taxes for the 
first 8 years of operations in Cuba, and many foreigners living in Cuba 
would be let off the hook from paying income taxes at all. Think about 
it. The question is, Who wins? Who wins? Not the people of Cuba.

[[Page S2187]]

  The most glaring omission in this law is any benefit at all to the 
Cuban people. Instead of receiving a new investment opportunity or 
benefiting from tax cuts--although Cubans don't make enough to benefit 
from any tax cuts--they will continue to live under restrictive laws 
and regulations, unable to start their own business, unable to follow a 
dream or build a better life. They are left to live under the most 
restrictive laws preventing them from ever realizing their dreams for 
themselves and their families.
  In fact, the Cuban regime has permitted people to work for themselves 
but only in 200 types of jobs the government officially sanctions. They 
have a list of authorized jobs that includes sewing buttons, filling 
cigarette lighters, street performing--not exactly lucrative startups 
that can build an economy. These authorized jobs bear more resemblance 
to a feudal economy than anything we would recognize as economic 
  At the same time the government has moved aggressively to close 
inhome movie theaters, secondhand clothing markets, and fledgling 
private restaurants that it considers too large or too successful. Why? 
Because anything that allows Cubans to meet legally, lawfully, and as a 
group is seen as a threat to the regime. Simply allowing people to come 
together for what we take for granted in our country and most countries 
in the world is seen as a threat to the regime because God knows what 
those Cubans would do if they started talking to each other in a place 
where they had no fear.
  While the Cuban Government offers new incentives to foreign investors 
and continues to clamp down on self-employed workers, the real economic 
change in Cuba is the growing role of the Cuban Armed Forces in the 
country's economy. Under the watchful eye of Raul Castro's son-in-law, 
a general in the Cuban Armed Forces, the military holding company, 
GAESA, has amassed control of more than 40 percent of Cuba's economy. 
Through companies such as GAESA, the government and the Armed Forces--
those most loyal to the Castros--are laying a foundation for its future 
control of Cuba and the Cuban economy.
  On the economic front, I think it is important to make the point that 
when people argue for travel and trade with Cuba, they are arguing to 
do so with who--with Castro's monopolies. Let us be clear: Regular 
Cubans are prohibited from engaging in foreign trade and commerce. So 
do we want to trade with Castro's state-owned monopolies--monopolies 
that are largely controlled by the Armed Forces of Cuba? Do we? Do we 
truly want to reward a regime that sends the biggest amount of weapons 
to North Korea in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions?
  The U.S. Government's own report of agricultural sales to Cuba states 
how every single transaction with Cuba, by hundreds of American 
agricultural companies, has only one counterpart--Castro's food 
monopoly through a state-owned company named Alimport. That hasn't 
helped the people one bit. So do we truly want to unleash billions to 
Castro's monopolies?
  Also, every single foreign people-to-people traveler who currently 
stays at a hotel or resort owned by whom? By the Cuban military. No 
exceptions. No exceptions. So how does that promote independence of the 
Cuban people from the regime as President Obama's policy statement upon 
release of this regulation states? At the very least they should be 
compelled to stay at what we call a casa particular, which means a 
private home that used to be able to take in a visitor, but staying at 
the military facilities owned by the military or copartnering by the 
military with some foreign private sector contravenes the President's 
own policy statement.
  This hardly constitutes an economic opening for the people of Cuba. 
By the way, if you are an individual Cuban, you can't go to a foreign 
company. You can't even go to the hotels in your own country unless you 
are invited in by a foreigner. You work there if the state sends you 
there. Those of us who get to work here, we actually would only be here 
because the state would send us here, not because through our abilities 
and competency we would have earned the opportunity to be employed here 
or anywhere else in this country or in the private sector. That is not 
possible for the average Cuban. So in their own country they cannot go 
to a hotel unless they are invited in by a foreigner. Imagine visiting 
throughout our country and not being able to go into a hotel unless 
somebody from some other country tells you you can go into it.
  However, if there is one positive trend to be found in Cuba today it 
is that after decades of fear and self-imposed silence there is a 
growing and growing number of Cuban citizens beginning to speak out 
critically, increasingly in public.
  In June of 2012, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez--known as Antunez--testified 
at my invitation before the Foreign Relations Committee via Skype from 
the U.S. intrasection, as you can see in this photograph. After he 
testified he was beaten and detained for his testimony on human rights 
abuses on the island, but that didn't stop him. It didn't stop the 
bloggers from the Cuban diasporo from getting the word out.
  After decades of being manipulated by the Castros, the people of Cuba 
no longer identify with the government. While the government still 
holds power through its security operations, its legitimacy is 
plummeting in the opinions of its people. So after 55 years of 
dictatorship, it is our responsibility in the international community 
to encourage this independence and help the people of Cuba reclaim 
their rights--rights to freedom of expression, rights to organize 
unions, rights to freedom of assembly, rights to freedom of the press, 
rights to freedom of religion--universal human rights, the rights and 
freedoms that will be the building blocks of a new and Democratic Cuba 
of the future.
  But let us not be misled. Although Berto Soler--the ladies in white 
that I showed earlier--is now allowed by the regime to visit the United 
States and Europe after an enormous amount of international pressure, 
when she returns to Cuba there is no change in the status of the ladies 
in white. The pictures I showed of the beatings and the arrests is 
still their reality. Every move she and her courageous partners make is 
monitored by the Castro regime. They are physically harassed 
intimidated and arrested. Why? For simply wanting what any mother in 
any country on the face of the Earth wants--to learn the fate of her 
husband, her son or daughter who has been harassed, beaten and jailed 
by an aging, illegitimate regime.
  According to the Cuban Commissioner for Human Rights and National 
Reconciliation, there were more than 15,000 cases of arbitrarily, 
politically motivated detentions since the start of 2012. In January of 
this year, when 30 heads of State from Latin America and the Caribbean 
came together, as well as the Secretary General of the United Nations 
and the Secretary General of the OAS, at a summit in Havana, there were 
more than 1,050 detentions over the course of 1 month.
  In one prominent case, a leading Afro-Cuban political activist, 
intellectual, and known leftist Manuel Cuesta Morua was arrested after 
attempting--to do what? To organize a parallel civil society summit 
during the visit by the heads of state.
  This simple practice--a practice not uncommon and, in fact ubiquitous 
throughout Latin America and the world--is not tolerated by the Castro 
  Instead, Mr. Cuesta Morua faced 5 days of intensive interrogation and 
has been charged with ``disseminating false news against international 
peace,'' joining prominent activists Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antunez 
and Guillermo Farinas--who was awarded the Sakharov Prize by the 
European Parliament--simply because they knew there were heads of state 
throughout Latin America and of major international organizations 
wanting to hold a parallel meeting, peacefully doing so to promote 
their vision of what human rights and democracy should be inside of 
their country. Their result was to ultimately be jailed and face the 
charges which can leave them for many years in jail.
  Unfortunately, except for one or two, most of the leaders of the 
hemisphere who went to that meeting didn't even try to meet with the 
human rights activists, political dissidents, or independent 
journalists because they did not want to insult the Castro regime.
  Here is Farinas shown being taken away by the police. These activists

[[Page S2188]]

have faced repeated brutal acts at the hands of the Castro regime--no 
less violent than the regimes of any other terrorist state.
  Finally, it is important to note that detentions, violence, and 
harassment are not reserved for political activists alone but also 
directed at labor rights activists as well. In early March of this year 
AFL-CIO President Trumka called on the Cuban Government to end its 
harassment of Mr. Cuesta Morua and all independent union activists 
advocating for labor rights to protect Cuban workers, such as Morua and 
Maria Elena Mir and her colleagues.
  American workers are not turning a blind eye to what the Cuban regime 
is doing to limit worker rights, and we should not turn a blind eye 
either. We must support those such as Morua and Maria who are willing 
to step forward for labor rights in the face of a repressive regime 
that will not stop at anything to silence them.
  As the people of Cuba look to cast off the shackles of five decades 
of dictatorial rule, we must stand with and speak out in support of all 
those who seek to reclaim their civil and political rights and promote 
political pluralism and democratic values. We cannot turn our back on 
Cuba's human rights violations record for decades simply because 
``enough time has passed.'' If that is the case, enough time has surely 
passed in places such as Syria, Sudan, Iran, and North Korea.
  To me and to the thousands who have suffered at the hands of this 
regime, the clock has nothing to do with our policy options. Engagement 
and sanctions relief have to be earned. It can't be timed out. It must 
come through real change, not Xs on a calendar or the ticking of a 
clock. And the clock is ticking for Alan Gross.
  On December 4, 2009, Alan Gross, a private subcontractor for the U.S. 
Government, working to bring information to the Jewish community inside 
of Cuba, was arrested in Cuba. Mr. Gross, a 64-year-old development 
professional who worked in dozens of countries around the world with 
programs to help people get access to basic information, was doing 
nothing different. That is why I am amazed with this uproar which 
exists by some who want to paint this picture that, my God, we actually 
were trying to assist the Cuban people to have greater access to the 
Internet through a Twitter program. That is what we do throughout the 
world. Even the foreign operations legislation talks about tens of 
millions of dollars--not several hundred million dollars--to be 
promoting Internet access in closed societies.
  It seems to me that freedom of information is one of the most 
fundamental elements, and yet we have this bit of a firestorm going on 
over simply creating the possibility for people to have access to 
information so they can speak for themselves and hear unfettered what 
is happening in the outside world. We all condemned what is happening 
in Turkey when the head of Turkey ultimately tried to shut down 
Twitter, but somehow it is OK to shut down the people of Cuba.
  Since 2009, Alan Gross has been detained in Villa Marista, a prison 
in Havana notorious for its treatment of political prisoners by the 
Cuban National Security Agency. This is not a minimum-security prison 
where foreigners are routinely held. It is a harsh, repressive prison 
reserved for Cuban dissidents. He is still being held at Villa Marista, 
and it is time for the Castro regime to let this American be released. 
He did nothing wrong. After serving 4 years now of a 15-year sentence, 
this 64-year-old American's mental health is reported to be 
deteriorating and his life may well be in danger.
  The case of Alan Gross is only one example of why we cannot let up 
until the dead weight of this oppressive regime is lifted once and for 
  We have supported democracy movements around the world. I have been a 
big advocate of that in my 21 years in the Congress, in the House and 
the Senate, serving on both foreign policy committees. I am a big 
advocate because freedom and democracy and human rights, when they are 
observed, mean we deal with countries in which we will have less 
conflict and more opportunity. It is the idea upon which this Nation 
was founded, and it is who we are as a people and what we stand for in 
the eyes of the world.
  We can no longer condone, through inaction and outright support--in 
some cases even from some of my colleagues in this Chamber--the actions 
of a repressive regime 90 miles from our own shores simply because of 
the passage of time or because of some romantic idea of what the Castro 
regime is all about.
  So to my colleagues, let me say, I know I have come to this floor on 
many occasions demanding action. I have come to this floor demanding 
that we live up to our rhetoric and our values. I ask that we hold the 
Castro brothers accountable for the suffering of the Cuban people--not 
only the years of brutality and oppression which have deprived the 
Cuban people of the basic human rights we so proudly proclaim to 
support around the world, but also for the continuing reality of the 
suppression of those human rights today. I will come to the floor again 
and again to ask for nothing less, to ask that we never allow the 
Castro regime to profit from increased trade which would benefit the 
regime and will use these dollars for repression but not put one ounce 
of food on the plates of Cuban families.
  I will end with this photograph of a man being arrested in Havana and 
flashing a sign recognized across Cuba and throughout the world. The 
sign is ``L'' for liberty. Libertad. That is all we ask for the people 
of Cuba, and I won't rest until we achieve it.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor and I suggest the absence of a 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.