Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor today in opposition to H.R. 982, the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act, which unfairly mandates public disclosure of the personal information of asbestos exposure victims. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding, and for his leadership on so many issues.
“Mr. Speaker, as you know, the debates that we have on the floor of the House affect millions of Americans: families, seniors, veterans, students, and children. We all bring stories of men and women and families from our districts – the challenges facing our neighbors, the urgent need to solve them.
“Today, we address an issue that takes the lives of thousands of Americans each year: asbestos exposure. Yet we do not have to look back only to our districts on this scourge; we only need to look into the lives of some who have served in this body.
“I’m very honored today, as I know some of my colleagues are as well, that Susan Vento, the wife of our former colleague Bruce Vento – who served with such distinction in the Congress with some of us some years ago – is with us. Bruce Vento was affected by asbestos exposure – it took his life. I wish to place in the record Susan Vento’s letter, without objection, Mr. Speaker, and just to say, that in the letter, Susan says:
“‘During the consideration of this legislation in the Judiciary Committee, two other women who have been affected by the ravages of asbestos and I requested to have a chance to testify about how the legislation would affect people like us. Our request was denied. To date, not one victim of asbestos exposure or affected family member has been allowed to be heard on this legislation. The only people who have been directly affected by the bill have been completely shut out of the process.’
“It goes on to say, ‘the so-called FACT Act’ – and this letter doesn’t say ‘so called,’ that’s my characterization – ‘the FACT Act drastically erodes the decades of work Bruce’ – Bruce Vento – ‘and so many have invested in helping those who could not help themselves. If this bill passes, it will be a serious setback for Americans who expect their elected representatives to work on their behalf. Instead of helping those who suffer from the diseases caused by asbestos, it will reward those who have perpetuated this disease.’ Without objection, I wish to submit the full content of the letter to the record.
“I would also like to talk about another one of our colleagues who was affected by this: Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy. Carolyn McCarthy serves in this Congress with us and she is a distinguished Congresswoman from the state of New York. Congresswoman McCarthy’s father and brother were career boiler makers. Each night, they brought home asbestos fibers on their clothes. Over time, exposure to this asbestos affected Congresswoman McCarthy herself. And today, she is battling asbestos-related lung cancer.
“Her story is like the stories of countless Americans across the country. It is up to us to strengthen the health of those suffering from exposure. It is up to us to act in their names, whether they suffer with cancer today or face the prospect of severe illness in the future.
“Yet this Republican measure we consider today does not meet this challenge. Like far too many Republican bills in this Congress, this legislation only serves to make matters worse for the American people. The so-called ‘FACT Act’ – there it is again – actually harms the American people. That is a fact. And it hinders the ability of asbestos victims to obtain compensation. And how does this do this? This bill would deny cancer victims the assistance and simple justice they deserve. It would even delay compensation beyond the life of a person suffering from asbestos-related cancers and illnesses. It would invade the privacy of thousands of Americans. And it would pose a particularly detrimental impact on veterans of the United States Armed Forces, who have been disproportionately affected by asbestos.
“Contrary to the claims of the bill’s proponents, there is no need for this bill. State laws provide for adequate disclosure. There is no evidence of systemic fraud in the asbestos trust system. In short, this bill is unnecessary; it is mean-spirited; and it will never become the law of the land.
“The Republican majority has little time left on the legislative calendar this year: just 13 days between now and December 31st, according to the schedule they have given us. In that short window, the House should focus on our most pressing challenges – priorities like job creation, economic growth, comprehensive immigration reform, or deficit reduction. Instead, our Republican colleagues have chosen to waste time on another message bill to nowhere.
“In the name of Bruce Vento and Congresswoman McCarthy, in the name of our friends, family members, and constituents facing the daily challenges of asbestos exposure, let’s work together on steps to strengthen the health of the American people. Let’s preserve the privacy and well-being of asbestos victims and all American families. We can do this by voting ‘no’ on this legislation.
“I yield back the balance of my time.”