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Personal Responsibility and Individual Development for Everyone Act

Location: Washington DC

April 1, 2004


Mr. SANTORUM. Mr. President, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I would ask the Senator from California-she suggested we are not going to allow a vote. I would be very happy to allow a vote. We suggested we would be happy to give a vote on the issue of minimum wage. But I think it is important, if we are going to give a vote on a "message amendment"-that is the term that has been used by Members on your side of the aisle, a message amendment-we would be happy to give you a vote on your message amendment in exchange for you giving us a vote on something that is actually going to help people in poverty; that is, passage of this bill and going to conference. In fact, we have offered to the Democratic leader that in exchange for a vote on your message amendment, you allow us to pass and go to conference on a bill that is actually going to help low-income people get out of poverty.

So I would be happy to offer, as I did yesterday, a unanimous consent request to give you a vote on your amendment, in exchange for you allowing us to have a vote on passage, at a time certain, and a commitment to go to conference on this legislation.

I ask the Senator: Would you agree to such a proposal?

Mrs. BOXER. Thank you very much for asking. We are ready to vote on the minimum wage right now. We do not need any more debate time.

Mr. SANTORUM. I would be happy to-

Mrs. BOXER. The message we are sending is to the people in America who need to have an increase. That is the message. We want to have that vote.

Mr. SANTORUM. Reclaiming my time.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Pennsylvania has the floor.

Mr. SANTORUM. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that we have a vote on the minimum wage Boxer amendment, followed by a vote on the McConnell amendment on minimum wage, and then a vote on passage of the welfare reform bill, with the appointment of conferees, three Republicans and two Democrats. And then, on top of that, let's get everything done. Let's move, then, to the FSC/ETI bill, have a commitment to pass that bill by Thursday of next week, and a final vote, let's say, at 5 o'clock on Thursday.

So if you are committed to getting things done and helping manufacturing jobs, and you are committed to helping get welfare reform done, I offer that as a unanimous consent request.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Mrs. BOXER. Reserving the right to object.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from California.

Mrs. BOXER. I say to my friend, there are a series of amendments that are important to the working people of this country. Overtime-the Bush administration is trying to take away overtime-we want a vote on that. The unemployment insurance, which has run out for millions of Americans, we want a vote on that. There are a series of amendments that deal with making lives better for the people.

Mr. SANTORUM addressed the floor.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Does the Senator object?

Mrs. BOXER. This Senate is not the House. We are Senators. We are free to offer amendments.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Does the Senator object?

Mrs. BOXER. I absolutely would agree if he would modify his request. We can agree on time agreements for these and keep it open for the rest of the amendments, and then we will agree.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Does the Senator object?

Mrs. BOXER. I object, as he has done it. But I will agree to modify it.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

Mr. SANTORUM. Senator Frist has offered to the Democratic leader a vote on all three of the amendments that the Senator from California asked for; that is, minimum wage, the issue of overtime, as well as the issue of unemployment insurance. We have agreed to votes on all three of those amendments, in exchange for votes on two things we would like to do; that is, pass a welfare reform bill that is actually going to help reduce poverty in America, help stabilize and build families, reconnect fathers with their children, and to pass a JOBS Act otherwise known as the FSC bill, which will help manufacturers compete in the international marketplace, save jobs, and create new jobs, and avoid harmful tariffs which are now in the process of being assessed against American workers by the European Union.

We have agreed to pay a ransom, to get two victims returned. The victims of the filibuster are the victim of welfare and the JOBS Act to help create manufacturing jobs. But we are not going to pay a ransom and not get a victim back. We are not going to pay a ransom to have votes on theme or message amendments and not get back for the American public two things that are absolutely necessary to help alleviate poverty and create jobs. This is not just going to be a political exercise.

The leader and the Republicans want to get things done. We are not here to message for Presidential politics. We are here because we want to do a job for the American people. We have a welfare bill that has worked-the 1996 welfare bill.

I will quote-by the way, not a Republican-June O'Neill, who was at the Congressional Budget Office, who said:

Politicians and experts from the left and the right acknowledge that welfare reform has succeeded beyond the most optimistic expectations.

The 1996 Welfare Act, which Members on the other side of the aisle say: "We are not trying to block. Oh, yes, we'll eventually get to it"-they say they are not trying to block it, so what do they do? Right out of the box, they offer an amendment and say: You either give us a vote on this amendment or we can't move forward on the bill.

They did not wait until we worked our will, until we had several amendments we were trying to work through. There are supposedly 30 germane amendments on the other side of the aisle. They did not wait to offer their 30 germane amendments. They did not work through the process.

Right out of the box comes an amendment that has nothing to do with welfare, that we said, from the very beginning, if you offer this amendment, then we will be happy to vote on it in exchange for a commitment to finish this bill. But no. No. We have to get our message amendments out. Why? Because I believe there are many on the other side of the aisle who do not want a welfare bill, who want message amendments instead of improving a bill that we know works for the American public.

Now, why would I say that? Well, let's listen to the Senator from Massachusetts, 8 years ago, on the floor of the Senate, dealing with this first welfare bill that we are trying to reauthorize and modestly improve. I underscore modest. This is not a major revamp of welfare in this bill. There are some modest improvements, tinkering, because we know what is out there is working. We want to make sure what has been put in place stays in place and make some minor tinkering to try to improve it. That is why this bill came out of the committee in a bipartisan basis, because these are not major changes. These are minor changes which amplify what we know has already been working out among the States.

But what did the Senator from Massachusetts say about this bill in 1996, which he voted against?

These provisions are a direct assault on children and have nothing at all to do with meaningful reform.

Let's see if they had anything to do with a direct assault on children. Children in America who were at the highest poverty rates, when this bill passed, were African-American children. Let's see if Senator Kennedy's assault, as he termed it, came to be. No. Wrong. The assault was on poverty, not on children. The assault that Senator Kennedy foretold never happened. Over 40 percent of poverty was among African-American children in 1996. Now the rate of poverty among African-American children is the lowest ever recorded-the lowest ever recorded. Why? Because this bill works. Why? Because requiring work works. That is what this bill did. And that is what Senator Kennedy was vehemently against-vehemently against.

He goes on to say:

Here we are talking about American children living in poverty, the innocent victims of fate.
"[T]he innocent victims of fate."
If this bill passes, they will be the innocent victims of their own Government.

Let me change that around. For 30 years, African-American children in poverty were the innocent victims of their Government, in programs created by the Senator from Massachusetts, which locked them in poverty. And we have the courage on this floor to say: Stop this "compassion" that is killing America's children. We stood up and said, just because you are poor, you are not disabled, that we do not have a prejudice against you because you are poor, but we believe you can achieve just like the rest of Americans, if given the chance.

So we passed a bill that fundamentally changed the structure that the Senator from California and the Senator from Massachusetts, and far too many others, believed was the best for children-well-meaning but very wrong.

Instead of admitting this is the proper course, they now offer an extraneous amendment, having nothing to do with welfare, to block this hugely successful program in helping millions of families-millions of families-get off of welfare. How many millions? Two point eight million families. So 2.8 million families who used to get a welfare check now bring home a paycheck.

You ask, How big a difference is that in our world? I will give you a story of a young lady who told her story. She works for CVS. She had been on welfare for many years. She said after she had her first week of work and got her first paycheck, all of the children piled into her car and wanted to go to the store. Why? They wanted to go to the store because they wanted to go through the checkout line and have their mom pay with cash instead of food stamps. They wanted not to feel looked at as someone who was using the person behind them and their money to help pay for their food, but they had earned it themselves.

You don't think that has an impact on a little child's life? You don't think that being dependent upon the Government has an impact on the psychology of little children who grow up in that environment? Do you think we are doing people a favor by saying, We will take care of you?

If we don't pass this welfare reform bill today, the majority of Americans on welfare will no longer have a work requirement. If we don't pass a welfare reform bill, a majority of Americans on welfare will be in the old welfare system prior to the reform in 1996.

You say, well, this bill doesn't really make any difference? It makes a huge difference because the incentives will not be there anymore. I can't tell you the number of welfare mothers I have talked to. As I mentioned before, we have employed nine in my State office. I have worked personally, hand in hand, in trying to deal with the difficulties of taking people from welfare to work. It makes an enormous difference in their lives. They have said to me, one after another: I probably would not be where I am today had welfare reform not passed and the Government changed their expectation of me. I had to look at myself differently. It forced me to do something I never had the courage to do because to get that first job is scary.

It is a frightening thing, if you have very little skills, to go out and hold yourself up to failure. Let's be honest. Remember your first job. You knew nothing about what it meant to work. You knew nothing. How did you sign up? Where did you get your paycheck? What timecard did you fill out? There are so many things in the world of work that you have no concept of if you have no experience in it. That first job can be frightening, particularly if you are unskilled. Taking that first step or staying at home and letting the Government send you a check, that is an option that far too many people took.

Well, we didn't allow that in this bill. And it was not cruel. It was a step in the right direction for 2.8 million families, 2.3 million children out of poverty, 700,000 African-American children out of poverty. And we are blocking a bill that would make this a reality for future generations of people who may have to go through the welfare system?

I yield the floor to the Senator from Iowa. I thank the chairman for his tremendous effort in bringing this bill to the floor and fighting to get it through cloture and on to passage and to reality. He has been a warrior for children on this issue. I thank him for his work.

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