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[Congressional Record: October 29, 2000 (Senate)]
[Page S11332-S11334]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []

                           WORK OF THE SENATE

  Mr. KENNEDY. Madam President, I thank the Senator from Nevada. I 
commend my friend and colleague, the Senator from Illinois, in raising 
these issues. I commend him because he has presented the facts to the 
  We never had an opportunity to vote on the 1996 Immigration Act. To 
represent that we did is not stating clearly the facts. That was 
wrapped into a conference report on an entirely different 
appropriation, which was a take-it-or-leave-it, after the legislation 
passed, I believe, 97-3, with strong bipartisan support, and it was 
after days of hearing in the Senate that the Republicans took that and 
added these provisions, some provisions which the Senator has 
  This figure of 4 million is a traditional way of distorting and 
misrepresenting a position, and then disagreeing with it. That is 
poppycock. It is red herring. The Senator from Utah ought to know 
better than that because that is completely inaccurate.
  I can understand the frustration that many feel about this issue, and 
I commend the President for attempting to try and deal with it.
  When we had this Latino Fairness Act, two prominent Republicans, the 
Senator from Florida and the chairman of the immigration committee, 
made statements in favor of the position outlined by the Senator from 
Illinois. They were prepared. They understood that there may have been 
differences here, but they spoke to it.
  The President is in a commendable position. I thank him for his 
leadership in this. I again thank the Senator from Illinois for 
bringing this matter to the attention of the Senate. I am very hopeful 
that we will stay the course on this until we get some action on this, 
another proposal that has a moratorium on the deportation of 
individuals, which has been passed through the House on the suspension 
calendar which addresses one of the regrettable aspects of the 1996 
act. That has the bipartisan support of Chairman Hyde of the Judiciary 
Committee, and Lamar Smith from the immigration committee, which 
virtually passed unanimously in the House. I am hopeful we will pass 
that, as well.
  Halloween is here. I am watching the clock that is over the Senate 
right now. It has not been corrected. I don't know whether the goblins 
are out here, as well, but Halloween is here. While the Nation observes 
this occasion only once a year, for this Republican Congress, every day 
is Halloween. This is the Halloween Congress: lavishing treats on the 
wealthy and cruel tricks on average families.
  If he is elected, Governor Bush will borrow the idea and have a year-
round Halloween White House in which powerful special interests hold 
sway and working families are left out and left behind. He said no to 
working families in Texas and he wants to say no to average Americans 
for 4 more years this time from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He wants to 
say no to Social Security, no to Medicare, no to a fair prescription 
drug benefit for senior citizens, no to the Patients' Bill of Rights, 
no to improving the public schools, no to health care for uninsured 
children, no to fair tax cuts for average families, no to fighting hate 
crimes, no to fairness for lawful immigrants, no to gun safety laws.
  There is no clearer example of how our Republican friends have 
kowtowed to powerful special interests than the tax bill before the 
Senate. Rather than meet the urgent priorities of the American people, 
Republicans have spent the past 2 weeks huddled behind closed doors to 
produce a quarter-trillion-dollar tax package tilted overwhelmingly 
toward the powerful and not toward the average families.
  In fact, the top 5 percent of taxpayers will receive a greater share 
of the tax breaks under this Republican tax scheme than the bottom 80 
percent of all taxpayers combined. There is little to distinguish this 
plan from the previous discredited proposals by the Republican 
leadership in Congress and by George W. Bush. In many ways the items in 
this package are even more cynical.

  The Republicans know that millions of Americans are deeply concerned

[[Page S11333]]

about the lack of health insurance for low- and middle-income families. 
So this bill lowers the cost of health insurance for wealthier people 
who are already insured. Madam President, 95 percent of the people who 
will benefit under this bill in terms of the health insurance benefits 
are individuals who are already insured, not any expansion for those 
who have no health insurance today.
  Republicans know that millions of Americans are concerned about 
saving enough for retirement, so this bill fattens the pension 
opportunities available to the highest level corporate executives. 
Republicans know that millions of children and working families are 
having trouble feeding their families even in this time of prosperity. 
So this bill increases the tax breaks that corporations can claim for 
three-martini lunches, dinners, and other entertainment.
  Republicans know that millions of families struggle to care for 
elderly or disabled family members at home, so their tax bill lowers 
the cost of luxury nursing facilities for wealthy families.
  Millions of low-wage workers are depending on Congress to raise the 
minimum wage this year before we adjourn. But Republicans seem to care 
so little about the minimum wage that they have repealed it for 6 
months of next year in their tax bill. It was, apparently, an 
inadvertent mistake, or perhaps a Freudian slip. But if they had worked 
with Democrats and shown us the provision, we could have prevented such 
an embarrassing mistake. An increase in the minimum wage may be an 
afterthought for the Republican leadership, but it means food on the 
table and clothes for the children for the 12 million workers who 
benefit. To eliminate the minimum wage, even for 6 months, would be a 
disaster for these families.

  Here we are in the final hours of this Congress and still we have 
been denied the opportunity to even vote whether this body thinks we 
should vote for a 50-cent increase in the minimum wage today--which is 
now $5.15 an hour--and 50 cents next year, at the time we have the 
greatest economic expansion in the history of this country.
  On the other hand, under Republican leadership the Congress raised 
its salary by $4,800 last year and again by $3,600 this year. Congress 
made sure nothing got in the way. Congressional pay was not eliminated 
for 6 months. Congress did not say Congressional salaries would be 
increased only if accompanied by $100 billion in tax breaks. Isn't that 
interesting? Our Republican leaders have told us yes, you can have 
raises, rather than the people who are going to be affected by an 
increase in the minimum wage if we have $73 billion in tax breaks. We 
did not have that kind of requirement when we increased our own 
benefits, but evidently for the hardest working families, many of those 
who have two or three jobs to try to make ends meet, that is the block 
that is put in front of them.
  Madam President, 535 Senators and Representatives received a raise 
without a hitch. The 12 million Americans who would receive a raise in 
the minimum wage deserve the same. It is a children's issue, a families 
issue, a civil rights issue.
  I hope this Republican Congress will act to pass the minimum wage 
before adjourning this year.
  Mr. REID. Will the Senator yield for a question?
  Mr. KENNEDY. Yes, I will be happy to.
  Mr. REID. Isn't it true, all over this country there are State and 
minimum wage laws that are much higher than $5.15 an hour? It is not as 
if Congress is breaking some new ground. The fact is, in several States 
they have a higher minimum wage than we are trying to advocate; is that 
not true?
  Mr. KENNEDY. The Senator is correct. In a number of communities we 
have living wage regions, in many of the major cities of this country, 
which have been successful. But there are those, including Governor 
Bush, whose position is to say the States ought to be able to opt out 
on the minimum wage. When you realize the minimum wage in the State of 
Texas is $3.35 an hour, when we have seen the prosperity which is 
across this country, that raises serious questions about the real 
interest in any working families.
  I want to take the time remaining to talk about two public policy 
areas, first on education and then on health care. If Governor Bush's 
record in Texas is any indication, average Americans, who work day 
after day to make ends meet, will be an afterthought in a Bush 
  The Republican Congress says he has the answers to education. He 
calls his record in Texas an education miracle. But if you look at the 
record, it is more of an education mirage than an education miracle. 
Under Governor Bush, in 1998, according to the National Center for 
Education Statistics, Texas ranks 45th in the Nation in high school 
completion rates; 71 percent of high school dropouts in Texas are 
minorities; Hispanic students in Texas drop out at more than twice the 
rate of white students in the State. So if education is the biggest 
civil rights issue in America, as Governor Bush proclaimed at the 
Presidential debates, he flunked the test in Texas.
  Last August, the College Boards reported that nationally, from 1997 
to the year 2000, SAT scores have increased. But in Texas, they have 
decreased. In 1997, Texas was 21 points below the SAT national average. 
By 2000, the gap had grown by 26 points.

  Then, last Thursday, Governor Bush heard more bad news. The Rand 
Corporation released an education bombshell that raises serious 
questions about the validity of gains in student achievements in Texas 
claimed by the Governor. The Rand bombshell was all the more 
embarrassing because in August Governor Bush said:

       Our State has done the best, not measured by us, but 
     measured by the Rand Corporation who take an objective look 
     at how States are doing when it comes to education.

  Those are the Governor's words. Clearly, at that time Governor Bush 
trusted the conclusions made by the Rand Corporation because he was 
referring to a Rand report that looks at scores in Texas from 1990 to 
1996. In fact, Senator Hutchison cited those findings on the floor of 
the Senate on Thursday.
  But most of the years covered by the earlier Rand report were before 
Bush became Governor. The new Rand report released earlier this week 
analyzes the scores from 1994 to 1998, when George W. Bush was the 
Governor. The achievement gap in Texas is not closing, it is widening. 
What is the Governor's solution? Test, test, tests and more tests.
  In August, Governor Bush said:

       Without comprehensive regular testing, without knowing if 
     children are really learning, accountability is a myth and 
     standards are just slogans.

  We all know tests are an important indication of student achievement, 
but the Rand study questions the validity of the Texas State test 
because Governor Bush's education program was teaching to the test 
instead of genuinely helping children to learn.
  These are the results. We find out the objective standards, whether 
we take it from the Rand Corporation or the National Center for 
Education Statistics. When it was favorable to Texas, it was quoted ad 
infinitum by strong supporters of the Governor. But, those successes 
applied to the education policies that were developed prior to the time 
the Governor became Governor.
  If we want a true solution to improving education, we should look at 
the success of States such as North Carolina, which is improving 
education the right way: Investing in schools, improving teacher 
quality, expanding afterschool programs--all in order to produce better 
results for students. The Bush plan mandates more tests for children, 
but it does nothing to ensure that schools actually improve and 
children actually learn.
  We know immediate help for low-performing schools is essential. We 
know we can turn around failing schools when the Federal Government, 
States, parents, and local schools work together as partners to provide 
the needed investments.
  In North Carolina, low-performing schools are given technical 
assistance from special State teams who provide targeted support to 
turn around low-performing schools. In the 1997-1998 school year, 15 
North Carolina schools received intensive help from these State-
assisted teams. In August 1998, the State reported most of these 
schools achieved exemplary growth and not one school remained in the 
low-performing category. Last year, 11 North Carolina schools received 
similar help; 9 met or exceeded their targets.

[[Page S11334]]

  That is the kind of aid to education that works--not just tests, but 
realistic action to bring about realistic change for students' 
education. And, correspondingly, the test scores for the students in 
North Carolina have risen 10 points above the national average during 
this period.
  The Democratic proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary 
Education Act incorporate the proven approaches that have demonstrated 
better results for children. But the Republican leadership has blocked 
any opportunity to debate education. The Elementary and Secondary 
Education Act, for the first time in 35 years, will not be acted on by 
  The Vice President, Al Gore, supports programs to improve public 
schools which have been proven effective. The best example we have is 
North Carolina. Those programs are tried and tested and demonstrated to 
be successful. That is what we believe ought to be done in the future 
for public education in this country. Yet those programs that have been 
tried and tested in the State of Texas are not improving education for 
children. Education is a prime issue for families, and we ought to look 
at the results. When you look at them carefully, you have to realize 
that what has been outlined as an educational miracle by the Governor 
just does not measure up--it's just an education mirage.

  Instead of taking steps that will work, Governor Bush abandons the 
low-performing schools. He proposes a private school voucher plan that 
drains needed resources from troubled schools and traps low-income 
children in them. In the Vietnam war, it was said we had to destroy 
some villages in order to save them. That is what Governor Bush has in 
store for failing schools: a Vietnam war strategy that will destroy 
them instead of save them.
  Parents want smaller class sizes where teachers can maintain order 
and give one-to-one attention students need to learn. Parents want a 
qualified teacher in every classroom in America. Parents want modern 
schools that are safe learning environments for their children. GAO 
found that $112 billion was necessary for our schools to meet health 
and safety standards and environmental standards, to make critical 
repairs, and to ensure they are wired for modern technologies. That is 
why we want strong support for our school modernization and 
construction program that the Republican leadership has consistently 
  Here we are 4 weeks into the next fiscal year. Republicans have said 
that education is their top priority, but instead, they have made 
education their last priority.
  Parents and students alike want an increase in Pell grants to help 
young people afford the college education they need to compete in the 
new economy.
  The vast majority of Americans want us to address these challenges, 
and Al Gore and the Democrats in Congress will do just that. We will 
continue to fight hard for education priorities that parents and local 
schools are demanding.
  There is much good news about education across the nation. More 
students are taking the SATs so they can gain entrance into college. We 
see these numbers going up every year.
  More and more students are taking advanced math and science classes 
in precalculus, calculus, and physics. We know there are schools in 
some parts of the country where the children cannot even read and write 
an essay. We ought to be doing something about it. The Republicans 
condemn those schools, but they have no plan to improve them.
  Finally, the SAT math scores are the highest in 30 years. The SATs 
are taken by young people who want to go on to college. Those who are 
taking math now--many of the children who are taking the advanced 
courses are going to do better. That is what we want, isn't it? We want 
all these indicators to go in the right direction--better results for 
  As we come into these final weeks, parents ought to look at the 
Members of Congress, the Members of the Senate, and the Presidential 
candidates and where they stand on education. Democrats and Al Gore 
stand for an investment in children that will produce better results: 
smaller class sizes, a qualified teacher in every classroom in America 
in 4 years, a strong downpayment on meeting the nation's school 
modernization and construction needs, more afterschool programs to keep 
children safe and out of trouble and give them extra time for learning, 
  We should support these policies to improve public schools, and we 
should oppose policies by the Republican leadership and Governor Bush 
to abandond public schools. The nation's children deserve no less.


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