Governors are sent by Him to punish the evildoers and praise the virtuous (1 Peter 2:14).

     
Congressional Record2017/05/02Senate | House | Extensions

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[Pages S2674-S2677]
From the Congressional Record Online through GPO




                     EXECUTIVE CALENDAR--Continued


                     National Charter Schools Week

Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, I am here today to celebrate the 18th Annual National Charter Schools Week and thank the students, parents, and teachers from charter schools across the United States for their ongoing contributions to education. Senator Bennet of Colorado and I introduced a resolution marking this event, which the Senate approved yesterday.

Let me tell you my favorite story about charter schools. It was 24 years ago, 1992. I was in my last month as U.S. Secretary of Education, and as my last official act, I wrote a letter to every school superintendent in the country asking them to consider replicating the early success of the State of Minnesota in creating charter schools. There were about a dozen of them then, and they were created by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party of Minnesota. That was consistent with what President George H.W. Bush and I had been encouraging, which was what we called start-from-scratch schools--schools that gave teachers more freedom and parents more choices. We thought that could improve education in the country and might lead to what we call new American schools.

The first charter schools were created in the State of Minnesota nearly a quarter of a century ago, led by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, and there were about a dozen of them. Since then, there has been broad bipartisan, mainstream support for charter schools.

Let's remember that charter schools are public schools. They are simply public schools which are freer from government rules, Federal rules, State rules, and union rules and which give teachers more freedom to teach the children who are presented to them and parents more freedom to choose those public schools. [[Page S2675]]

Some of those who supported the creation of charter schools include Albert Shanker, the late head of the American Federation of Teachers. In 1997, President Clinton said: We need 3,000 charter schools by the year 2002. George W. Bush, in the No Child Left Behind legislation, supported charter schools. President Obama was a strong supporter of charter schools while he was in office. His first U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, called himself a “strong supporter” of charter schools. President Obama's second U.S. Education Secretary, John King, founded a charter school and ran a system of charter schools. Secretary Betsy DeVos, the current Secretary of Education, has spent most of her life as a strong supporter of charter schools. In 1994, 1998, 2001, and 2015, the U.S. Congress supported charter schools by large margins and in a bipartisan manner. Over 44 States and the District of Columbia have created an environment through their laws for charter schools.

In 30 years, public charter schools have grown from a dozen in Minnesota to more than 6,900 today. Today, charter schools are serving over 3.1 million students. Over 6 percent of all public school students in America today now attend charter schools, and another 1 million students are on waiting lists for charter schools. This past year saw an estimated enrollment increase of over 200,000 students, representing a 7-percent growth in just one school year.

Over half of the students served by these institutions are eligible for free or reduced-priced lunches, over half are students of color, and 17 percent are limited English proficient--all higher percentages than those served in traditional public schools.

As I said earlier, charter schools are about freedom for teachers, choices for parents, and more and better opportunities for students. Charter schools enable people. They enable parents to help their children get a real opportunity by choosing better schools or at least schools that fit them better and help them succeed. They enable students to learn and succeed. They enable teachers to succeed by giving them the freedom to use their firsthand knowledge. They enable administrators to succeed by ending bureaucratic mandates and giving them a chance to use their own good judgment.

In amending the No Child Left Behind Act, which we called the Every Student Succeeds Act, we made a number of changes to strengthen and expand the Federal Charter Schools Program, which since 1994 has given grants to States to start new charter schools.

ESSA, as we call it, made improvements to that program to ensure that those funds are used as effectively as possible to increase the number of high-quality charter schools. Specifically, ESSA invests more Federal funds in the replication and expansion of high-quality charter schools with a proven record of success, while still giving States the flexibility to invest in innovative new methods. ESSA continues Federal support for nonprofit organizations which help charter schools find suitable facilities, while also encouraging States to assist charter schools in this task.

Now these hard-working and creative educators who are seeking to open charter schools have greater flexibility in how they use Federal startup funds--for example, by allowing them to use the funds for transportation or facilities improvement, if that is what they decide is the best use of those funds for their children and their community.

Finally, the Every Student Succeeds Act encourages States to provide charter schools with the support they need to be successful and to hold them accountable when they fail to demonstrate positive results.

Charter schools are public schools stripped of many Federal, State, and union rules and constraints that are placed on traditional public schools. The money the State would ordinarily spend on the district school follows each child to the charter school instead.

Across Tennessee, more than 30,000 students now have that same opportunity to attend one of 107 charter schools, and they are thriving as a result. A recent study by Stanford University found that on average, Tennessee students attending charter schools gained the equivalent of 86 additional days of instruction in reading and 72 additional days of instruction in math each year than did students attending traditional district schools. In other words, they make almost a year and a half's worth of progress in a single school year.

More than 80 percent of students attending charter schools in Tennessee are low income, and more than 94 percent are African American or Hispanic. In other words, charter schools in Tennessee are making a difference for those students who have traditionally been least well- served by our Nation's public schools. That is a worthy event to celebrate in this 18th annual National Charter Schools Week, to celebrate how charter schools have grown from a dozen start-from- scratch schools in the State of Minnesota 25 years ago to more than 6,900 today.

I thank the Presiding Officer.

I yield the floor.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

Mr. SCHATZ. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. SCHATZ. Mr. President, Scott Pruitt, Mike Flynn, Betsy DeVos-- there is a pattern here. This administration keeps choosing people who seem like the wrong fit to run their agency, and now we are about to add Jay Clayton to the list.

He is different in a lot of ways. I met with him. He is a good person. He is a sensible person desiring to be a public servant, and he is a very smart lawyer. But he is not the right candidate to lead the SEC because it is on the frontlines of making sure that Wall Street follows the rules. And that is the No. 1 issue here because Mr. Clayton has too many ties to the industry that he would be in charge of overseeing.

Wall Street is full of his friends and business contacts, and there is nothing wrong with that, generally. We need lawyers in the securities industry. We need honorable people who help companies to do an IPO, but that doesn't mean that individual is appropriate to be in charge of the SEC and in charge of reining in Wall Street. That causes the problem.

I do not question Mr. Clayton's integrity. I have no doubt that he is a good person. But how can we say that the best person to hold Wall Street in check is someone with strong ties to the big banks, someone who has built his career there, who very well may go back to his old law firm in a few years?

I talked with Mr. Clayton at his confirmation hearing about whether he would go back to Wall Street after his time at the SEC ended, and he said he couldn't rule it out. That is just one of several concerns that I have. If we look at Mr. Clayton's statements about the SEC, it is clear that he is not the right person to be the cop on the Wall Street beat.

He has talked about “monitoring” the financial sector; that is the word he used--“monitoring.” But the United States does not need someone to “monitor” Wall Street. We need someone who will aggressively enforce the rules, to make sure we don't have a repeat of 2008, when the big banks made so many bad and reckless decisions that our economy failed.

We have a very short memory in Washington about what happened to our country less than 10 years ago, but the rest of the country remembers. There are far too many communities still working to recover from the great recession.

Now is not the time to walk back the small steps toward progress we have made in protecting the economy from bad actors on Wall Street. But I am afraid this is what could happen under this administration, including if Mr. Clayton should be confirmed.

In his confirmation hearing, he said he wants to lighten the penalties companies face when they get into trouble with the SEC, and that is not something I can support. We cannot expect big banks and investment firms to play by the rules when they know they can pay a small fine and keep behaving badly as a cost of doing business. Regulation and enforcement has a cost, but that cost is meant to put the burden on the actors who are causing the problem [[Page S2676]] instead of allowing the burden to fall on the rest of us--to fall on American families.

The cost is there, one way or the other. The question is, Who should pay it?

Even if the Senate disagrees on enforcement and regulation, I hope we can agree that conflicts of interest have gone too far. This administration has diminished the meaning of public service in the context of conflicts of interest. Instead of looking out for conflicts of interest, it has leaned into them. Instead of protecting the country from corruption, it is putting our country in real danger. And at some point, it is up to the Senate to be a Senate--to do something. We have to decide where to draw the line. How long do we let this go on?

I am a “no” on Mr. Clayton's nomination. I urge all Senators who care about ending conflicts of interest and putting a tough cop on the Wall Street beat to join me and vote no on this nomination.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Idaho.

Mr. CRAPO. Mr. President, I rise today in support of Mr. Jay Clayton, who has been nominated to serve on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

On January 4, 2017, then President-elect Trump announced his intention to nominate Jay Clayton to be the next chairman of the SEC. He noted that “Jay Clayton is a highly talented expert on many aspects of financial and regulatory law, and he will ensure our financial institutions can thrive and create jobs while playing by the rules.”

This sentiment was proven by Mr. Clayton's testimony and interactions during his nomination hearing. In fact, he passed out of the Banking Committee by a vote of 15-to-8, with bipartisan support.

Mr. Clayton is a highly regarded and exceptionally qualified candidate. As a partner at a prominent law firm, he built a reputation as a highly skilled financial markets expert, representing clients of all types and sizes, both domestically and internationally. He has also invested in a younger generation of lawyers, passing on his knowledge as an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Throughout the nomination process, Mr. Clayton has proved his dedication to unbiased and fair conduct.

Mr. Clayton's comments, experience, and actions provide me with confidence that he will lead the SEC with the highest integrity and effectiveness.

The SEC has an important three-part mission: to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and to facilitate capital formation. At his nomination hearing, Mr. Clayton echoed the importance of the SEC's mission and how the SEC can do more to ensure that our markets remain the envy of the world.

Although the United States capital markets remain the most robust in the world, they have been challenged by competition from abroad. During his hearing, Mr. Clayton observed that our capital markets have become less attractive to businesses than they ever have been before. Capital markets drive innovation and job creation, and access to them is the lifeblood of our economy.

The JOBS Act helped revitalize primary markets, and both Congress and the SEC should continue to find ways to help companies go public and allow investors to share in their successes. Mr. Clayton pledged to do just that. He committed to working with his fellow Commissioners, with SEC staff, with Congress, and with the President to support and defend our capital markets.

Mr. Clayton also repeatedly committed at his nomination hearing that he would protect investors. He stated that he is “100 percent committed to rooting out any fraud and shady practices in our financial system.”

During the Banking Committee's hearings on Mr. Clayton, some raised the concern that he previously represented many firms on Wall Street and that he would continue to look out for their best interests. He appropriately responded by pledging to the American people that he will show no favoritism to anyone and maintain a high degree of transparency.

Given Mr. Clayton's strong qualifications and his pledge to work to improve capital formation and uphold investor protections, I urge my colleagues to support his nomination. Congress and the SEC, led by Mr. Clayton and the American people, can ensure that the U.S. financial system and markets remain the preferred destination for investors throughout the world. I urge all of my colleagues to vote yes on the nomination of Mr. Jay Clayton.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

The assistant bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.

Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak for up to 5 minutes and delay the vote until 5:25 p.m., until the completion of my remarks.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, I appreciate the Presiding Officer's forbearance and also the cooperation always of the chairman of the Banking Committee, Senator Crapo. We had a good hearing today on reinsurance and on European Union issues on insurance regulation. I appreciated the work we were able to do there and the work we are doing on Russian sanctions, which is increasingly important, as we see, as the clear links between Russia and the American elections are becoming clearer. The links are becoming clearer and clearer to Senators in both parties.

I rise in opposition to the nomination of Jay Clayton to the Securities and Exchange Commission. We have seen this movie before, where we nominate someone to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission who starts off almost handcuffed with their hands behind their back because he has--as did his predecessor--far too many conflicts of interest, far too many demands for recusal, far too many cases he has worked on.

We hear of a President who talks about draining the swamp, who wants regulators and people in Washington who don't have conflicts of interest and who can look at this in a fairminded, clear-eyed way. Instead, we see a White House that is full of Goldman Sachs former officials. In fact, the White House on some days looks like a retreat of Goldman Sachs executives. That is a long way from clearing the swamp.

What we are seeing in the case of Mr. Clayton--and we had a good meeting with him, and I thought his testimony was pretty good--is that he is smart, he is educated, he knows these issues well, but he is going to have to recuse himself because of conflicts with UBS, Deutsche Bank, and Goldman Sachs. He has worked on so many of these cases as a Wall Street lawyer for so many years that at this Securities and Exchange Commission--where the President still hasn't appointed a Democrat, which really he is supposed to do but hasn't seemed to have gotten around to it--that we are going to see all kinds of opportunities for mischief, we are going to see all kinds of delays and tie votes, and we will see an inability for the SEC to operate when they should.

I oppose the confirmation of Jay Clayton. I think he is capable, but he will not serve this country well. He will not keep corporations and, especially, banks honest on all kinds of corporate governance issues. He will not be as supportive of the investor public because of these recusals and conflicts that he faces. I think it is a bad idea, again. I opposed the previous Democratic nominee for this job because she had far too many recusals and conflicts that she had to do. I think this is a mistake to do this again.

I ask my colleagues to vote no, to oppose the confirmation of Jay Clayton to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

I yield back my time.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the question is, Will the Senate advise and consent to the Clayton nomination?

Mr. BROWN. I ask for the yeas and nays.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?

There appears to be a sufficient second.

The clerk will call the roll. [[Page S2677]]

The assistant bill clerk called the roll.

Mr. CORNYN. The following Senator is necessarily absent: the Senator from Georgia (Mr. Isakson).

Mr. SCHUMER. I announce that the Senator from Illinois (Mr. Durbin) is necessarily absent.

The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Durbin). Are there any other Senators in the Chamber desiring to vote?

The result was announced--yeas 61, nays 37, as follows: [Rollcall Vote No. 118 Ex.] YEAS--61 Alexander Barrasso Bennet Blunt Boozman Burr Capito Carper Cassidy Cochran Collins Corker Cornyn Cotton Crapo Cruz Daines Enzi Ernst Fischer Flake Gardner Graham Grassley Hatch Heitkamp Heller Hoeven Inhofe Johnson Kennedy King Lankford Lee Manchin McCain McCaskill McConnell Moran Murkowski Nelson Paul Perdue Portman Risch Roberts Rounds Rubio Sasse Scott Shaheen Shelby Strange Sullivan Tester Thune Tillis Toomey Warner Wicker Young NAYS--37 Baldwin Blumenthal Booker Brown Cantwell Cardin Casey Coons Cortez Masto Donnelly Duckworth Feinstein Franken Gillibrand Harris Hassan Heinrich Hirono Kaine Klobuchar Leahy Markey Menendez Merkley Murphy Murray Peters Reed Sanders Schatz Schumer Stabenow Udall Van Hollen Warren Whitehouse Wyden NOT VOTING--2 Durbin Isakson

The nomination was confirmed.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the President will be immediately notified of the Senate's action. ____________________



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