9:16 AM EST

Bob Goodlatte, R-VA 6th

Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise today in support of a bill that combines two important reforms, the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act and the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act, or the FACT Act. Let me first explain why my colleagues should vote in favor of the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act.

Last year an independent research firm surveyed companies in 26 countries and found that 80 percent of those that were subject to a class action lawsuit were U.S. companies, putting those U.S. companies at a distinct economic disadvantage when competing with companies worldwide.

The problem of overbroad class actions doesn't just affect U.S. companies. It affects consumers in the United States who are forced into lawsuits they don't want to be in. How do we know that? We know that because the median rate at which consumer class action members take the compensation offered in a settlement is an incredibly low 0.023 percent. That is right.

Only the tiniest fraction of 1 percent of consumer class action members--less than 1 quarter of 1 percent--even bothers to claim the compensation awarded them. That is clear proof that vastly large numbers of class members are satisfied with the products they purchase, don't want compensation, and don't want to be lumped into a gigantic class action lawsuit.

Just recently a California judicial decision reported that, in a class action consisting of over 230,000 people, only two of those 230,000 wanted the coupons offered in the class action settlement. The judge in that case said that the case produced ``absolutely no benefit, really, to anybody.'' So where is all of the money going in these cases? To the lawyers who brought the lawsuits that hardly anyone wanted to be in.

In another case, the district court had refused to certify the class because most of the class members had not experienced any problems with the product. But then the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that ``proof of the manifestation of a defect is not a prerequisite to class certification.''

In yet another case, when the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the certification of an overbroad class action, it had to subsequently throw out the resulting settlement, stating, ``The district court approved a class action settlement that is inequitable, even scandalous,'' because the relatively few class members who were actually injured ended up claiming less than 2 percent of what the trial lawyers got the district judge to say was warranted based on the overbroad size of the class.

Trial lawyers work the system today in the following way: They file lawsuits, for example, against a company that sells a washing machine. Some of those washing machines don't work the way they are supposed to, but most of them do. But the lawyers file a class action lawsuit that includes everyone who ever purchased a washing machine from the company, even the large number of people who are completely satisfied with their purchases.

When trial lawyers lump injured, non-comparably injured, and non-injured people into the same class action lawsuit, the limited resources of the parties are wastefully spent weeding through hundreds of thousands of class members in order to find those with actual or significant injuries. That is money that could have been spent compensating deserving victims.

Sometimes, because judges don't separate the injured from the non-injured in class actions early enough in the proceedings, they end up throwing out settlements because it turns out hardly any of the class members were harmed and didn't want compensation.

Other times, when judges realize they have created an overbroad class, they justify their actions by coming up with novel theories to provide some compensation to people who are entirely satisfied with the product and who don't want compensation.

Either way, the solution is to direct judges to determine as best they can early in the proceedings which proposed class members are significantly and comparably injured and which aren't and to treat them accordingly. That is fair to everyone.

The purpose of a class action is to provide a fair means of evaluating like claims, not to provide a way for lawyers to artificially inflate the size of a class to

extort a larger settlement value for themselves and, in the process, increase the prices of goods and services for everyone.

Claims seeking monetary relief for personal injury or economic loss should be grouped in classes in which those who are the most injured receive the most compensation. No one should be forced into a class action with other uninjured or minimally injured members only to see their own compensation reduced.

The Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act would simply make clear what currently should be clear to the Federal courts, namely, that uninjured class members are incompatible with rule 23(b)(3)'s current requirement that common claims predominate a class action. [Page: H182]

Here is the full text of the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act, along with quotes from the Supreme Court that show how the bill's text codifies existing Supreme Court precedent:

The bill simply provides that ``no Federal court shall certify any proposed class seeking monetary relief for personal injury or economic loss unless the party seeking to maintain such a class action affirmatively demonstrates that each proposed class member suffered the same type and scope of injury as the named class representative or representatives'' and that ``an order issued under rule 23(c)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that certifies a class seeking monetary relief for personal

injury or economic loss shall include a determination, based on a rigorous analysis of the evidence presented, that the requirement in subsection (a) of this section is satisfied.''

That is it. One page. Fair rules. Common sense and wholly consistent with Supreme Court precedent. Please join me in supporting this bill on behalf of consumers everywhere.

The FACT Act is also simple, fair reform we should all support.

This legislation helps asbestos victims who must look to the bankruptcy process to seek redress for their or their loved ones' injuries. Too often, by the time asbestos victims assert claims for compensation, the bankruptcy trust formed for their benefit has been diluted by fraudulent claims, leaving these victims without their entitled recovery.

Fraud is able to exist because of the excessive lack of transparency plaintiffs' firms have forced on the asbestos trust system. Under the current Bankruptcy Code, plaintiffs' firms essentially are granted a statutory veto right over debtors' chapter 11 plans that seek to restructure asbestos liabilities. Plaintiffs' firms have exploited this leverage to obtain trust rules that prevent information contained within the trust from seeing the light of day.

The predictable result has been a growing wave of claims and reports of fraud. The increase in fraudulent claims has caused many asbestos bankruptcy trusts to reduce recoveries paid to asbestos victims who emerge following the formation of trusts.

The FACT Act, introduced by Congressman Farenthold, combats this fraud by introducing long-needed transparency into the system.

First, it requires asbestos trusts to file quarterly reports on their public bankruptcy dockets. These reports will contain basic information about demands to the trusts and the bases for payments made by the trusts to claimants.

Second, the FACT Act requires asbestos trusts to respond to information requests about claims asserted against and the bases for payments made by the asbestos trusts.

These measures are carefully designed to increase transparency while providing claimants with sufficient privacy protection. To accomplish these goals, the bill leverages privacy protections contained elsewhere in the Bankruptcy Code and includes additional safeguards to preserve claimants' privacy.

We cannot allow fraud to continue reducing recoveries for future asbestos victims.

I thank Mr. Farenthold for introducing the FACT Act to combat fraud. I urge all of my colleagues to vote in favor of this important legislation.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

9:25 AM EST

John Conyers Jr., D-MI 13th

Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 5 minutes.

Members of the House, I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 1927, the so-called Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act.

I oppose the legislation because it cleverly shields corporate wrongdoers by making it more difficult for those who have been harmed by their actions from obtaining justice and it allows these wrongdoers to further victimize their victims.

Among H.R. 1927's many flaws is the fact that this legislation will have the effect of denying individuals access to justice and threatening victims of corporate

wrongdoing, all in the name of protecting the powerful. Section 2 of H.R. 1927 will make it virtually impossible for victims of corporate wrongdoing to obtain relief through class actions in cases seeking monetary relief by requiring a party seeking class certification to show that every potential class member suffered the same type and scope of injury at the certification stage. Now, you know that is going to be difficult.

We come to the realization that, as it is, class actions are very difficult to pursue. Under current procedure, the courts strictly limit the grounds on which a large group of plaintiffs may be certified as a class, including the requirements that their claims raise common and factual legal questions and that the class representative's claims are typical of those of the other class members.

Rather than improving upon this class certification process, however, H.R. 1927 imposes requirements that are almost impossible to meet, effectively undermining the use of class actions.

Finally, section 3 of H.R. 1927 gives asbestos defendants--the very entities whose products injured millions of Americans--new weapons with which to harm their victims.

Section 3 requires a bankruptcy asbestos trust to report on the court's public case docket, which is then made available on the Internet, the name and exposure history of each asbestos victim who receives payment from such trust as well as the basis of any payment made to the victim.

As a result, the confidential personal information of asbestos claimants, including their names and exposure histories, would be irretrievably released into the public domain. Just imagine what identity thieves and others, such as insurers, potential employers, lenders, and data collectors, could do with this sensitive information.

Essentially, this bill revictimizes asbestos victims by exposing their private information to the public, information that has absolutely nothing to do with compensation for asbestos exposure. This explains why asbestos victims vigorously oppose this legislation, as it is an assault against their privacy interests.

[Time: 09:30]

So, in sum, H.R. 1927 is a seriously flawed bill that only benefits those who cause harm to others. Not surprisingly, the White House has appropriately issued a veto threat, stating that the administration ``strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 1927 because it would impair the enforcement of important Federal laws, constrain access to the courts, and needlessly threaten the privacy of asbestos victims.''

For all these reasons, I urge that this House oppose H.R. 1927.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

9:30 AM EST

Tom Marino, R-PA 10th

Mr. MARINO. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of the FACT Act. As chairman of the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, I have examined this piece of legislation for over the past year. We held hearings on the bill and solicited views from experts and victims alike. I heard many of the same concerns that we are hearing this morning. However, my own conclusion is that the FACT Act is a sound and necessary bill.

By preventing fraudulent claims, the FACT Act protects asbestos victims and ensures the viability of the asbestos bankruptcy trust for the unknown victims yet to come. Claims that the bill hurts the victims are false. To the contrary, it would be a disservice to the victims themselves to permit certain bad actors to raid the trust funds and line their pockets in the process.

As companies that used asbestos filed bankruptcy, the trust funds were created in recognition that victims must be compensated. Any measure that preserves these funds is clearly pro-victim.

Some critics contend that the bill violates victim privacy by requiring the disclosure of certain information. We examined this specific issue during our hearings, and it could not be farther from the truth. This bill provides protections that are absent in State tort cases where court dockets and the personal information of plaintiffs are part of the public record. Section 2 of the FACT Act simply requires the claimant's name and a description of their exposure history. It then explicitly states

that any disclosure does not [Page: H183]

include any confidential medical records or the claimant's Social Security number. It is important to note what might be missed here.

The FACT Act amends the Bankruptcy Code. By doing this, it incorporates the existing privacy protections therein that permit the bankruptcy judge to issue protective orders when disclosure of information would create ``an undue risk of identity theft or other unlawful injury.'' This is a sound and pertinent piece of legislation.

I would like to thank Chairman Goodlatte and my colleague from Texas (Mr. Farenthold) for bringing it to the floor. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.

9:33 AM EST

Steve Cohen, D-TN 9th

Mr. COHEN. Mr. Chairman, these bills are basically chamber of commerce week in the United States Congress. That is what we have come down to, is that the chambers of commerce who represent the large corporations who would be the defendants in these actions, by and large, and consist of the people that produce the asbestos, they are part of it too. It gives them an opportunity to not have to pay out damages to victims, victims where class actions are successful--but would make it more difficult

to be successful--and people who have been victims of asbestos injuries, mesothelioma being the ultimate disease that kills people from exposure to asbestos.

Now, on the other side of the chamber of commerce and my friends on the other side are people on this side and certain groups. I want to tell you who the folks are who are against the bill. The NAACP. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, often called the conscience of the Congress. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Consumers Union. The American Bar Association--and we have heard about how lawyers are doing this and lawyers are doing that, lawyers

are on both sides of the cases--the American Bar Association. Americans for Financial Reform. Public Citizen. The Southern Poverty Law Center, Morris Dees and company. The National Disability Rights Network. The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization is the voice of the victims, and they are against this. I have to be against it because I stand with the victims and for justice and what is fair for people who have been harmed by corporate wrongdoing.

I rise to tell a personal story. One of my best friends was a man named Warren Zevon. He was a singer and songwriter. Somewhere along the line, he was exposed to asbestos, and he died in September of 2003 of mesothelioma. But for asbestos and him being exposed to it in some manner, he would be with us today and would have been with us for the last 12 years, giving us entertainment and songs and maybe songs about some of the things that have been going down here.

One of his last songs was ``I Was in the House When the House Burned Down.'' Well, it wasn't this House, but it could have been this House. This House is the people's House, and it should be looking out for victims and people who should get compensation in courts.

When we travel internationally, one of the things we find is that people revere our justice system. They look to America for justice and an open court system that they don't have in their own nations. These bills would close the door on justice and close the door on the courts, and that is not what America is about and that is not why we are respected internationally.

I respectfully ask that we oppose these bills and vote ``no.'' Support the victims. Support justice.

9:37 AM EST

Hank Johnson Jr., D-GA 4th

Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Mr. Chair, I rise in opposition to H.R. 1927, section 3, the so-called Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2015, which is actually the text of H.R. 526, the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency, or the FACT Act.

It is a fact that the Koch brothers are probably sitting back at home with their fingers crossed watching these debates, hoping and feeling quite confident that this will pass because they know when it passes, it is going to help them.

How does it help them? Well, they are the ones who manufactured or acquired the companies that manufactured the asbestos, this asbestos everybody knows now hurts people. So when people are hurt, they deserve to be able to go into a court of law and establish their claim and seek just compensation for their victimization by that company.

What this legislation does is to put its ugly hand on the scale of justice in favor of the manufacturers of this dangerous product and, also, their insurance companies. It puts its ugly hand on that scale, weighs it down in favor of those companies. So all of them are looking upon us now, hoping that we do what they would like for us to do.

Please know that not everybody is going to go along with this. There are some who stand with victims who deserve a day in court. They deserve, when they go to court, to not have to be subjected to the public release of their very private and sensitive information, their medical information. There should not be any kind of registry, like a gun registry, established.

This is a registry--we should actually call it an asbestos death database--which would allow these insurance companies and producers, manufacturers of death, to have access to people's personal information so that they could use it against them when they file claims. That is what this bill is all about.

I would ask that my colleagues understand the true purpose and vote ``no'' on this act.

9:48 AM EST

John Conyers Jr., D-MI 13th

Mr. CONYERS. I yield an additional 15 seconds to the gentlewoman.

Ms. DelBENE. I urge my colleagues to oppose the FACT Act and join me in working to promote transparency that helps, rather than victimizes, those who have been facing heartbreaking consequences of asbestos exposure.

9:52 AM EST

Hakeem Jeffries, D-NY 8th

Mr. JEFFRIES. Mr. Chair, I thank the distinguished ranking member from Michigan for yielding as well as for

his steadfast leadership.

This is a new year with a new Speaker and new promises of bipartisan cooperation, yet we are here today on the House floor doing the same exact thing.

The asbestos industrial complex is responsible for unleashing mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other exotic diseases of mass destruction on thousands of unsuspecting Americans, many of whom have served this country in the military, and yet we are being asked today to support legislation that would shield the wrongdoers from liability.

At the end of the day, if you think about the bill that has been presented to us, the claim has been made that it is about disclosure, but the wrongdoers aren't really being asked to disclose anything further.

The claim has been made about this bill that it is about efficiency, yet there is not a scintilla of evidence of waste, fraud, or abuse.

The claim has been made that this is about fairness, yet at the end of the day the practical effect of this legislation would be to prevent the victims from being able to achieve just compensation.

At the end of the day, this is the same old approach: trying to find a solution in search of a problem that does not exist. This is a messaging bill that is dead on arrival in the Senate and will not be signed into law by the President.

Instead of wasting the time and the treasure of the American taxpayer through their elected Representatives here in the House, why don't we just get back to doing the business of the American people?

Vote ``no'' against this invidious legislation so we can do what the people have sent us to do here in the United States Congress.

10:01 AM EST

Nancy Pelosi, D-CA 12th

Ms. PELOSI. I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I thank him for his ongoing championing of the pledge we take every day: liberty and justice for all.

Mr. Chairman, last year marked the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. Eight hundred years ago, this storied charter first laid out a basic right to justice as the foundation of a fair society.

It was interesting to see in the observance of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta that they brought out 12 chairs to represent where the barons sat to make their case to King John. Those 12 chairs represent a trial by jury, 12 peers. Even under the King, the Magna Carta declared the lawful judgment by his peers. This much was owed the people.

``To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny, or delay right or justice.'' We pledge each day not justice for only the powerful and the wealthy, but liberty and justice for all.

You can read what I said and much more about justice and the Magna Carta in the book ``1215: The Year of Magna Carta.'' It is pretty thrilling that 800 years ago, people knew that it was fundamental for the leverage to be with the people and that they had rights. The right to justice is part of the beating heart of America's democracy. It is the sword and shield against plutocracy and tyranny.

Yet, today, with their class action bill, Republicans are trying to weaken that right, taking the justice that belongs to every American and handing it to the privileged few. It is about who has the leverage.

Class actions are an indispensable tool for individuals to hold powerful interests and big corporations accountable for their misdeeds. Without the ability to band together, Americans who have endured grave injuries and egregious wrongs face a David and Goliath struggle for justice.

Without class actions, the wealthy and powerful can divide and conquer their victims, burying families' pleas for fair remedy with the sheer weight of their money and resources. With this bill, Republicans are yet again helping the special interests flatten hardworking Americans.

We see the same goal in play in the Republican provisions attacking asbestos victims that are folded into this bill. As was mentioned by our colleague, Congresswoman Jackson Lee, in her letter, Sue Vento, widow of our esteemed colleague, Bruce Vento, made a plea for them not to include this in this bill, but they did.

These provisions claim to serve transparency. Indeed, the Republicans' effort to protect asbestos companies, intimidate asbestos victims, could not be clearer. They require absolutely no transparency on the part of the asbestos companies. Instead, they invade the privacy of thousands of Americans, many of them veterans and even children in schools.

This isn't about somebody taking a job that has risks. This is about children going to school and being exposed to asbestos and their privacy being invaded.

I am so pleased we will have a motion to recommit to address that later.

It also makes them vulnerable to harm by disclosing personal information in the public domain.

Over and over again, this Republican Congress works to stack the deck for the special interests against hardworking Americans. We see it in campaign finance, where Republicans will drown the voices of the American people in a tidal wave of unlimited special interest spending in our elections and completely resisting any opportunity to disclose. If you like transparency, you should love disclosure of where this money is coming from. [Page: H188]

We see it in the assault on labor, where Republicans would dismantle collective bargaining and undermine workers seeking a bigger paycheck, which they have long deserved.

We see it in this bill on class actions, where Republicans would deny justice to millions of Americans. In the courts, in the workplace, in our environment, in our elections, the Republican Congress has strengthened powerful interests and weakened hardworking Americans.

Our Founders pledged their lives, their liberty, their sacred honor, to establish a government of the many, not a government of the money. This is the people's House. Let us stand with the American people in opposing this appalling Republican bill.

With that, I urge a ``no'' vote on the bill.

10:06 AM EST

Blake Randolph Farenthold, R-TX 27th

Mr. FARENTHOLD. Mr. Chairman, as we have been going through this debate, we have entered in the Record and had some discussions about the groups that oppose this bill. I did want to point out that there are quite a few organizations--veterans organizations included--that are in support of this bill.

In fact, there is a pretty broad base of support: The 60 Plus Association; the Air Force Association, Department of Indiana; the American Military Society; the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Arizona Manufacturers Council; the Civil Justice Association of California; Coalition for Common Sense; Cost of Freedom, Indiana Chapter; Florida Chamber of Commerce; Florida Justice Reform Institute; Georgia Chamber of Commerce; Hamilton County Veterans; Illinois Chamber of Commerce; Lawsuit Reform

Alliance of New York; the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry; the Michigan Chamber of Commerce; the Military Officers Association, Indianapolis Chapter; Missing in America Project of Indiana; National Association of Manufacturers; the National Black Chamber of Commerce; the New Jersey Civil Justice

Institute; the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce; the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce and Business and Industry; the Reserve Officers Association Department of Indiana; Save Our Veterans; the South Carolina Civil Justice Coalition; the Taxpayers Protection Alliance; the Texas Civil Justice League; the

Cost of Freedom, Inc., of Indiana; Texans for Lawsuit Reform; the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; the Veteran Resource List; the West Virginia Business and Industry Council; the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce; Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce; and, importantly, to me, as a Texan, the Texas Coalition of Veterans Organization, which is an umbrella group that represents more than 600,000 Texas veterans.

This bill is absolutely pro-veteran. As was pointed out on the other side of the aisle, a very large percentage of folks exposed to asbestos are veterans compared to the general population. Under sovereign immunity, they have no one to turn to but these trusts and the manufacturers that created these trusts.

So it is important that we have the FACT Act to preserve the resources in these trusts so that our veterans who are injured by asbestos and come down with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases have resources to compensate them for their injury.

10:09 AM EST

John Conyers Jr., D-MI 13th

Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 15 seconds to ask my friend from Texas: Are there any asbestos victims organizations among that list that you recited?

I yield to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Farenthold).

10:10 AM EST

Matt Cartwright, D-PA 17th

Mr. CARTWRIGHT. Mr. Chairman, I rise this morning to add my voice to those speaking against this anticonsumer bill and to remind my colleagues, if I can, of what it is to be an American.

One of the signal features of American citizenship is that we have rights. We have rights to property, to liberty, to our privacy. We have rights to be free of negligently inflicted injury and death. We have rights to be free of dangerous and defective products. We have rights that are enforced in court. These are rights that are respected.

To the point Representative Cohen made, people around the world envy us for our rights, our Bill of Rights, our full spectrum of rights. People envy us all over the world for our individual rights. But these individual rights are no good unless you can go to court and enforce them.

And make no mistake, Mr. Chair, the people who are bringing this bill and who are behind it are the ones who routinely get hauled into court to account for causing injuries and violations of American individual rights. They are the ones behind this bill.

The bill is wrong. Cutting back on American individual rights is wrong, too. So I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on H.R. 1927.

10:12 AM EST

Bobby Scott, D-VA 3rd

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to H.R. 1927, the so-called Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act.

In 2013, in Butler v. Sears, Judge Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals spoke critically of the commonality in damages requirement found in this bill.

He said that ``the fact that damages are not identical across all class members should not preclude class certification. Otherwise defendants would be able to escape liability for tortious harms of enormous aggregate magnitude but so widely distributed as not to be remediable in individual suits.'' The court found that such a requirement ``would drive a stake through the heart of the class action device.''

Furthermore, Mr. Chair, the bill includes the so-called FACT Act, which would have a devastating impact on workers exposed to asbestos.

In the last few decades, thousands of workers in my district have developed asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma because of asbestos exposure that occurred between the 1940s and 1970s.

This exposure was inflicted upon many victims by corporations, such as one a New Jersey court found to have ``made a conscious, cold-blooded business decision, in utter flagrant disregard of the rights of others, to take no protective or remedial action.''

That is the kind of business that will benefit from the bill. The victims don't want it.

In the letter the ranking member will be introducing, they point out that veterans represent 8 percent of the population, but 30 percent of the victims.

That letter points out that the FACT Act would mandate unnecessary public disclosure of sensitive personal information and would increase the cost of litigation, thereby limiting the available pool of money to compensate the victims of those cold-blooded business decisions.

Mr. Chairman, I would hope that we would recognize that the asbestos victims have suffered too much already. Therefore, we should defeat this legislation.

10:14 AM EST

Gene Green, D-TX 29th

Mr. GENE GREEN of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank our ranking member of the Judiciary Committee for yielding to me.

I rise in strong opposition to this legislation. The so-called Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act is an attempt by the House majority to take away America's access to the courthouse and punish asbestos victims by requiring personal information be made public on the Internet.

I am proud to represent the hardworking people in the 29th District of Texas. Our district is home to the Port of Houston and the largest petrochemical complex in the country. The people in Eastside Houston and Harris County are proud of the work they do in producing the oil and gas and chemicals that drive our Nation's economy. [Page: H189]

We also produce a lot of seafarers because we are the largest international port in the country.

This inherently hazardous work needs to be done as safely as possible. Workers in Harris County and throughout our great country should not be exposed to known human carcinogens like asbestos. This is why I introduced, with my colleague, Representative Suzan DelBene, the Reducing Exposure to Asbestos Database, or READ Act, last year.

This legislation would expand existing protections enacted under the Reagan administration that would create a public database with the location of asbestos and asbestos-containing products in the country.

The READ Act would bring much-needed transparency to the known location of asbestos in our country, potentially saving thousands of Americans from asbestos-related illnesses, like lung cancer and mesothelioma, while helping industry reduce workers' exposure to this known carcinogen.

I urge my colleagues to stand with America's working families and join me in voting against today's bill that unfairly punishes asbestos victims and denies the American people access to the justice they deserve.

10:16 AM EST

John Conyers Jr., D-MI 13th

Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Members of the House, this legislation is just the latest attempt to take power away from ordinary citizens and place it in the hands of the most powerful corporations and industries in this country.

Whether it is by making it almost impossible for ordinary people to pursue their day in court through the important class action mechanism or threatening the privacy of asbestos victims, it is clear that H.R. 1927 does not have the interest of ordinary people in mind.

And it raises a broader question of who, rightfully, should hold power in a representative democracy like ours, politically unaccountable corporations, who seek only to maximize their own profit, or the people who are supposed to be sovereign. We say it is the people.

I yield back the balance of my time.