Pelosi Floor Remarks Opposing Republican Class Action Bill

January 8, 2016
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today on the floor of the House opposing the Republican Class Action Bill.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding.  I thank him for his ongoing championing of the pledge we take every day – liberty and justice for all.  Thank you, Mr. Conyers.

“Mr. Speaker, last year marked the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta.  800 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 – 12 chairs where the barons sat, to make their case to King John.  And those 12 chairs represent a trial by jury – 12 peers.

“Even under a king, the Magna Carta declared, the lawful judgement of his peers – this much was owed the people: ‘To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay the right to justice.’  As 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 in the Magna Carta, 1215 – the year of the Magna Carta.  It’s 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’s 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 hard-working Americans.  We see the same goal at play in the Republican provisions attacking asbestos victims that were folded into this bill.

“As was mentioned by our colleague, Congresswoman Jackson Lee – Sue Vento, widow of our esteemed colleague Bruce Vento, in a letter 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 and 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, 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’m so pleased we will have a motion to recommit to address that later – and 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 hard-working Americans.

“We see it in campaign finance, where Republicans would 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.  You like transparency?  You should love disclosure of where this money is coming from.

“We see it in the assault on labor, where Republicans would dismantle collective bargaining and undermine workers seeking the bigger paychecks 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 hard-working Americans.

“Our founders pledged their lives, their liberty and their sacred honor to establish a government of the many, not 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’ on the bill and yield back the balance of my time.

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.”