Improving Chemical Plant Security by Senator Barack Obama

March 29, 2006

Hello, this is Senator Barack Obama and today is Wednesday, March 29, 2006.

You know, there has obviously been a lot of talk about homeland security since the tragedy of 9/11. We have recently seen the debate flair up around the issue or ports and the nation of Dubai bidding to take over some of our critical port infrastructure. In this whole discussion, I think that many of you may not be aware of the degree to which we have utterly failed to deal with what may be one of the most significant potential terror threats to this country and that is how we protect our chemical plants across the nation.

The 9/11 Commission focused specifically on the dangers of our chemical plants, how exposed they are. Industrial chemicals such as chlorine, ammonia, phosgene, methyl bromide, hydrochloric and various other acids are routinely stored near cities in multi-ton quantities. These chemicals are extraordinarily hazardous. Several are identical to those that were used as weapons during the First World War. Today they are 111 facilities in the country where a catastrophic chemical release could threaten more than one million people. These plants represent some of the most attractive targets for terrorists looking to cause wide spread death and destruction. Despite this fact, security at our chemical plants is voluntary. It's left to the individual plant owners. While many chemical plant owners have taken steps to beef up security, there are a lot who haven't. We are still hearing reports of chemical plants with lap-dated fences, under-sized guard forces, and unprotected tanks of hazardous chemicals.

Basically these plants are stationary weapons of mass destruction spread all across the country. Their security is light, their facilities are easily entered, and their contents are deadly. Now, five years after 9/11, the federal government has done virtually nothing to secure these chemical plants. It's a travesty that the 9/11 Commission, in looking at what has been done over the last five years gave us basically an "F" when it came to chemical plant security. So what I've done working with Senator Frank Lautenberg from New Jersey, is to introduce legislation that would protect our communities from this potential threat but in a balanced way. There are features in this bill that I think have to be part of any chemical security legislation passed by this Congress, and Congress has to go ahead and actually act on legislation in this area.

So, here are a couple things that the bill does. Number one: it establishes a general duty to improve security at facilities storing threshold amounts of chemicals. What that means is that chemical facilities would have to take steps to improve security including improving barriers, containment, mitigation, safety training, and where possible, use safer technology. That is known as Inherent Safer Technology, or "IST," what that means is essentially, plants should use less toxic chemicals, and employ safer procedures where possible.

Second thing it does is it identifies high priority chemical facilities. It directs the Department of Homeland Security to work with the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as state and local agencies to identify those areas that need special attention either because they are close to population centers, the type or amount of chemicals that are involved, their threat to national security and critical infrastructure.

Third thing: it requires high priority facilities to conduct vulnerability assessments and develop and implement response plans. That's something that is not currently done.

Fourth thing it does is it says that if states decide to create laws that are more stringent than the national standard, they are not preempted; states can make decisions that they want even better protection for our chemical plants.

Next, it protects whistle-blowers. It protects employees who report dangerous gaps in security to the Homeland Security Department.

Finally, it protects security information from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act and other state and local disclosure laws, so you don't have chemical plant security measures on the net for terrorists to tap into.

These are some common sense provisions; unfortunately, the chemical lobby is one of the most powerful ones in Washington. It spends more money than just about any other lobby, including the pharmaceutical industry. They have dragged their feet, in terms of wanting to move this issue forward. I understand that there is no company out there that wants to be regulated, companies are generally allergic to any intrusion in their business decisions, but this is something of such great importance that we can't afford to rely solely on voluntary measures.

It's overdue; it's time that we acted. My hope is that the Lautenberg-Obama Chemical Security and Safety Act moves in this Congress and I would urge all of you to contact your legislators to suggest that this is in fact something that you guys strongly support.

I appreciate your time, and I look forward to talking to you next week. Bye bye.

21st Century Schools for a 21st Century Economy Remarks of Senator Barack Obama

Chicago, IL | March 13, 2006

Awhile back, I was reading through Jonathan Kozol's new book, Shame of a Nation. In it, he talks about his recent travels to schools across America, and how fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, we have an education system in this country that is still visibly separate and painfully unequal.

At one point, Kozol tells about his trip to Fremont High School in Los Angeles, where he meets some children who explain with heart-wrenching honesty what living in this system is like. One girl told him that she'd taken hairdressing twice, because there were actually two different levels offered by the high school. The first was in hairstyling; the other in braiding.

Another girl, Mireya, listened as her friend told this story. And she began to cry. When asked what was wrong, she said, "I don't want to take hairdressing. I did not need sewing either. I knew how to sew. My mother is a seamstress in a factory. I'm trying to go to college. I don't need to sew to go to college. My mother sews. I hoped for something else."

I hoped for something else.

It's a simple dream, but it speaks to us so powerfully because it is our dream - one that exists at the very center of the American experience. One that says if you're willing to work hard and take responsibility, then you'll have the chance to reach for something else; for something better.

The ideal of public education has always been at the heart of this bargain. From the moment we built the first schools in the towns of New England, it was the driving force behind Thomas Jefferson's declaration that "...talent and virtue, needed in a free society, should be educated regardless of wealth, birth or other accidental condition."

It's a bargain our government kept as we moved from a nation of farms to a nation of factories, setting up a system of free public high schools across the country. It's a bargain we expanded after World War II, when we sent over two million returning heroes to college on the GI Bill, creating the largest middle class in history.

And even when our government refused to hold up its end of this bargain and forced Linda Brown to walk miles to a dilapidated Topeka school because she wasn't allowed in the well-off, white-only school; even then, ordinary people stood up and spoke out until the day when the arrival of nine little children at a school in Little Rock made real the decision that in America, separate could never be equal. Because in America, it's the promise of a good education for all that makes it possible for any child to transcend the barriers of race or class or background and achieve their God-given potential.

In this country, it is education that allows our children to hope for something else.

As the twenty-first century unfolds, we are called once again to make real this hope - to meet the new challenges of a global economy by carrying forth the ideals of progress and opportunity through public education in America.

We now live in a world where the most valuable skill you can sell is knowledge. Revolutions in technology and communication have created an entire economy of high-tech, high-wage jobs that can be located anywhere there's an internet connection. And today, a child in Chicago is not only competing for jobs with one in Boston, but thousands more in Bangalore and Beijing who are being educated longer and better than ever before.

America is in danger of losing this competition. We now have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized country. By 12th grade, our children score lower on their math and science tests than most other kids in the world. And today, countries like China are graduating eight times as many engineers as we do.

And yet, as these fundamental changes are occurring all around us, we still hear about schools that are giving students the choice between hairstyling and braiding.

Today we are failing too many of our children. We're sending them out into a 21st century economy by sending them through the doors of 20th century schools.

Right now, six million middle and high school students are reading at levels significantly below their grade level. Half of all teenagers can't understand basic fractions; half of all nine year olds can't perform basic multiplication or division. For some students, the data is even worse: almost 60% of African-American fourth-graders can't read at even the basic level, and by 8th grade, nearly nine in ten African-American and Latino students are not proficient in math. More students than ever are taking college entrance exams, but these tests are showing that only twenty percent are prepared to take college-level classes in English, math, and science. For African-American students, the figure dips to just ten percent.

What happens to these children? What happens to the one in four eighth graders who never go on to finish high school in five years? What happens to the one in two high school graduates who never go on to college?

Thirty or forty years ago, they may have gone on to find a factory job that could pay the bills and support a family. But we no longer live in that world.

Today, the average salary of a high school graduate is only $33,000 a year. For high school dropouts, it's even closer to the poverty line - just $25,000.

If we do nothing about this, if we accept this kind of economy; this kind of society, we face a future where the ideal of American meritocracy could turn into an American myth. A future that's not only morally unacceptable for our children; but economically untenable for a nation that finds itself in a globalized world, as countries who are out-educating us today out-compete our workers tomorrow.

The President promised that he would change all this with No Child Left Behind Act. Unfortunately, the Administration has failed on the implementation of that law. Not only have they failed to provide billions in adequate funding, they've also failed to design better assessment tests that provide a clearer path for schools to raise achievement.

They've failed to work with states so that they could honor their own commitment to provide every child with a highly qualified teacher. As a result, they've had to exempt numerous states from meeting certain provisions of No Child Left Behind, and now it appears unlikely that they will meet their own goal of getting our children to grade level by the year 2014.

This is unacceptable. If we truly believe in our public schools, then we have a moral responsibility to do better - to break the either-or mentality around the debate over education that asks us to choose between more money or more reform, and embrace a both-and mentality. Because we know that good schools will require both the structural reform and the resources necessary to prepare our kids for the future.

We can learn from innovation taking place all over the country and right here in Chicago. Chicago Public Schools are collaborating on a number of innovations with foundations and groups like New Leaders for New Schools, Teach for America, the New Teacher Project, the Chicago Public Education Fund, The Academy for Urban School Leadership and the University of Chicago Urban Education Initiative. The Chicago Teachers Union is also now collaborating on the Fresh Start Schools, and we're watching that experiment with great interest. It's not easy, it's not popular with everyone, and, in the end, some of the experiments may be rejected. But we can't stop trying. We have to keep moving ahead for the sake of our children.

Now, the problem on a national level is that we are not applying what we're learning from these reforms to our national education policy. And so we need new vision for education in America - one where we move past ideology to experiment with the latest reforms, measure the results, and make policy decisions based on what works and what doesn't.

Fortunately, educational leaders like the people in this room know what reforms really work: a more challenging and rigorous curriculum with emphasis on math, science, and literacy skills. Longer hours and more days to give kids the time and attention they need to learn. Early childhood education for every child so they're not left behind before they even start school, a measure Governor Blagojevich has recently introduced. Meaningful, performance-based assessments that can give us a fuller picture of how a student is doing. And putting effective teachers and transformative principals in front of our kids.

All of these reforms need to be scaled-up and replicated across the country. But in the time I have remaining, let me use just talk about a few to point to what's possible, starting with one place where I think we can start making a big difference in education right now.

From the moment our children step into a classroom, new evidence shows that the single most important factor in determining their achievement today is not the color of their skin or where they come from; it's not who their parents are or how much money they have.

It's who their teacher is. It's the person who will brave some of the most difficult schools, the most challenging children, and accept the most meager compensation simply to give someone else the chance to succeed.

One study shows that two groups of students who started third grade at about the same level of math achievement finished fifth grade at vastly different levels. The group with the effective teacher saw their scores rise by nearly 25%. The group with the ineffective teacher actually saw their scores drop by 25%.

But even though we know how much teaching matters, in too many places we've abandoned our teachers and principals, sending them into some of the most impoverished, underperforming schools with little experience or pay; little preparation or support. After a few years of experience, most will leave to pick wealthier, less challenging schools.

The result is that some of our neediest children end up with less-experienced, poorly-paid teachers who are far more likely to be teaching subjects in which they have no training. Minority students are twice as likely to have these teachers. In Illinois, students in high-poverty schools are more than three times as likely to have them.

If we hope to give our children a chance, it's time we start giving our teachers and our principals a chance. We can't change the whole country overnight. But what we can do is give more school districts the chance to revolutionize the way they approach teaching. By helping spark complete reform across an entire school district, we can learn what actually works for our kids and then replicate those policies throughout the country.

So here's the legislation I'm introducing this week - it's the creation of what I call Innovation Districts. School districts from around the country that want to become seedbeds of reform would apply and we'd select the twenty with the best plans to put effective, supported teachers in all classrooms and increase achievement for all students. We'd offer these districts substantial new resources to do this, but in return, we'd ask them to try systemic new reforms. Above all, we'd require results.

In Innovation Districts, we'd begin by working with these districts to strengthen their teaching, and we'd start with recruitment.

Right now we don't have nearly enough effective teachers and principals in the places we need them most: urban and rural schools, and subject areas like math and science. One of the main reasons for this, cited by most teachers who leave the profession, is that no one gives them the necessary training and preparation.

Around the country, organizations like the Academy for Urban School Leadership right here in Chicago are changing this by recruiting and training new, highly-qualified teachers for some of the hardest-to-teach classrooms in the country. We need to expand this by giving districts help in creating new teacher academies that will partner with organizations like this to recruit effective teachers for low-performing, high-poverty schools. Each teacher would undergo an extensive training program before they begin, including classroom observation and participation.

These teacher academies are also showing us that it's not enough to just put outstanding teachers in the classroom - we have to place outstanding principals in the schools as well. In districts across the country, the role of principal is being transformed from bureaucratic manager to instructional leader who can set high standards and recruit great talent. With 230 New Leaders serving more than 100,000 kids annually, New Leaders for New Schools has been at the cutting edge of this process - a process we need to expand nationally.

After we recruit great teachers, we need to pay them better. Right now, teaching is one of the only professions where no matter how well you perform at your job, you're almost never rewarded for success. But with six-figure salaries luring away some of our most talented college graduates from some of our neediest schools, this needs to change.

That's why teachers in these Innovation Districts who are successful in improving student achievement would receive substantial pay increases, as would those who choose to teach in the most troubled schools and the highest-need subject areas, like math and science. The city of Denver is trying pay increases in partnership with the local union, and when Chattanooga, Tennessee offered similar incentives for teachers who taught in high-need schools, student reading scores went up by over 10%.

Of course, teachers don't just need more pay, they need more support. One thing I kept hearing when I visited Dodge Elementary here in Chicago is how much an encouraging principal or the advice of an experienced teacher can make a difference. That's why teachers would be paired with mentor teachers who've been there before. After a few years of experience, they'd then have the chance to become mentor teachers themselves.

We also know that teachers can't teach and our kids can't learn when there's violence in and around our schools, a problem we've seen right here in Chicago this year in too many tragic incidents. If our kids can't go to school in a safe place, nothing else we do matters. As we move forward with reform, we must makes safety a top priority. In the innovation districts, we'd help do this by expanding programs already being used in various states that teach students about positive behavior.

Finally, we would also require Innovation Districts to work with their unions to uncover bureaucratic obstacles that leave poor kids without good teachers, including hiring, funding and transfer policies. Districts would work with unions to tackle these problems so that we can provide every child with an effective teacher.

Beyond policies that help teachers specifically, we'd also ask Innovation Districts to try reforms that create a more effective teaching environment. To give teachers more time with their students and more time to learn from each other, these districts would be asked to restructure their schedules and implement either longer days or summer school.

In December, I also introduced the STEP Up Act that addresses this by providing summer learning opportunities for children at high risk early in their school careers. In addition to more learning, this would provide kids a safe, educational environment while their parents are at work.

To hold schools and teachers accountable for the results of all these reforms, districts that don't improve would be removed from the program. To find out what works and what doesn't, we'd provide them with powerful data and technology, and also give them the option of partnering with local universities to help them improve performance.

These reforms would take an important first step toward fixing our broken system by putting qualified, supported teachers in the schools that need them most. But beyond that, they would show us the progress we can make when money is well spent. And they would allow us to finally break free from the either-or mentality that's put bureaucracy and ideology ahead of what works; ahead of what's best for our kids.

When it comes to education, the time for excuses has passed - for all of us.

During my visit to Dodge Elementary, I was able to speak with a few of the teachers about some of the challenges they're facing in educating their students. And one teacher mentioned to me that in one of the biggest obstacles in her view is what she referred to as the "These Kids" syndrome.

She said that when it comes to educating students today, people always seem to find a million excuses for why "these kids" can't learn. That you'll hear how "these kids are nothing but trouble," or "these kids come from tough backgrounds," or "these kids don't want to learn."

And the more people talk about them as "these kids," the easier it is for "these kids" to become somebody else's problem.

But of course, the children in this country - the children in Dodge Elementary, and South Central L.A., and rural Arkansas, and suburban Maryland - they are not "these kids." They are our kids. They want a chance to achieve - and each of us has a responsibility to give them that chance.

In the end, children succeed because somewhere along the way, a parent or teacher instills in them the belief that they can. That they're able to. That they're worth it.

At Earhart Elementary in Chicago, one little girl, raised by a single mom from a poor background, was asked the secret to her academic success.

She said, "I just study hard every night because I like learning. My teacher wants me to be a good student, and so does my mother. I don't want to let them down."

In the months and years to come, it's time for this nation to rededicate itself to the ideal of a world class education for every American child. It's time to let our kids hope for something else. It's time to instill the belief in every child that they can succeed - and then make sure we make good on the promise to never let them down. Thank you.

Senator Obama's Floor Statement on Meals Amendment

March 8, 2006

I rise today in support of Senator Feingold's amendment to eliminate a loophole in this bill that would still allow members and staff to receive free meals from lobbyists up to $50 in value.

Now, of all the ethics reforms we take up this week, this should be an easy one. Because I can't think of a single reason in the world why we shouldn't be paying for our own lunches in Washington.

In cities and towns all across America, people pay for their own lunches and their own dinners. People who make far less than we do. People who can't afford their medical bills or their mortgages or their kids' tuition.

You ask them if they think that the people they send to Congress should be able to rack up a $50 meal on a lobbyists' dime. You ask them if they think we should be able feast on free steak dinners at fancy restaurants while they're working two jobs just to put food on their table.

I don't think we need to put a poll in the field to find out the answer to that one.

Now, in no way do I think that any of my colleagues or staffers would exchange votes for meals. But that's not the point. It's not just the meal that's the problem, it's the perception. It's the access that meal gets you.

In the current Washington culture, lobbyists are expected to pick up the tab when they meet with members or staff. It is simply understood by all sides that the best way to get face time with a member or staffer in order to express your ideas on legislation is to buy them a meal.

But you don't see many members eating $50 meals with constituents who are in town to talk about the issues on their mind or with policy experts who are discussing the latest economic theories. Most of these meals are with high-priced lobbyists who are advocating on behalf of a specific interest. The appearance is that they can afford the access, so they get it.

This culture has been around for some time, but it wasn't always that way. One of the first reforms that Newt Gingrich passed when the Republicans took control of the House in 1995 was an absolute gift and meal ban. During the debates on this subject, then-Speaker Gingrich said, "The simplest, the cleanest and the clearest standard is to say, 'No gifts'. There's no way around it. You didn't get the gift before you were elected. You ain't gonna get the gift after you leave."

Newt Gingrich was right. He was right then, and he's right today. The only reason members and staff are receiving these free meals is because of who they are. That's not the way we should be doing business in this town - and that's why we should bring the ban back.

This isn't about preventing us from interacting with lobbyists who have legitimate business to discuss, and it isn't about preventing staff from getting the information they need to help us pass better policy. We can still do all of this if the ban passes, and we can even do it over lunch or dinner.

All we're asking here is to take out your wallet, pull out your credit card, and pay for your own meal. Everyone else in this country does it - we can do it too.

The American people will be watching and reading about what we do here today. Eating expensive steak dinners is not why all of us decided to pursue public service, and it's certainly not why the American people elected us to represent them in Washington. Our constituents expect more from us, and this is our opportunity to live up to those expectations. That's why I will be voting for Senator Feingold's amendment and that's why I expect my colleagues to do the same.

I thank the Chair and I yield the floor.

Senator Obama's Opening Statement Floor Debate on Ethics Reform

March 7, 2006

Mr. President. Over one hundred years ago, at the dawn of the last century, the Industrial Revolution was beginning to take hold of America, creating unimaginable wealth in sprawling metropolises all across the country.

As factories multiplied and profits grew, the winnings of the new economy became more and more concentrated in the hands of a few robber barons, railroad tycoons and oil magnates. In the cities, power was maintained by a corrupt system of political machines and ward bosses. And in the state of New York, there was a young governor who was determined to give government back to the people.

In just his first year, he had already begun to antagonize the state's political machine by attacking its system of favors and corporate giveaways. He also signed a workers' compensation bill, and even fired the superintendent of insurance for taking money from the very industry he was supposed to be regulating.

None of this sat too well with New York's powerful party boss, who finally plotted to get rid of the reform-minded governor by making sure he was nominated for the Vice Presidency that year.

What no one could have expected is that soon after the election, when President William McKinley was assassinated, the greatest fears of the corrupt machine bosses and powerbrokers came true when that former governor became President of the United States and went on to bust trusts, break up monopolies, and return the government to its people.

His name, of course, was Theodore Roosevelt. He was a Republican. And throughout his public life, he demonstrated a willingness to put party and politics aside in order to battle corruption and give people an open, honest government that would fight for their interests and uphold their values.

Today, we face a similar crisis of corruption. And I believe that we need similar leadership from those in power as well.

The American people are tired of a Washington that's only open to those with the most cash and the right connections. They're tired of a political process where the vote you cast isn't as important as the favors you can do. And they're tired of trusting us with their tax dollars when they see them spent on frivolous pet projects and corporate giveaways.

It's not that the games that are played in this town are new or surprising to the public.

People are not naive to the existence of corruption and they know it has worn the face of both Republicans and Democrats over the years.

Moreover, the underlying issue of how extensively money influences politics is the original sin of everyone who's ever run for office - myself included. In order to get elected, we need to raise vast sums of money by meeting and dealing with people who are disproportionately wealthy. This is a problem that predates Jack Abramoff.

I agree with those on both sides of the aisle who believe that we shouldn't let half-measures and partisan posturing on campaign finance reform derail our current efforts on ethics and lobbying, but I also think this is an issue and a conversation we must have in the months to come.

Yet, while people know that both parties are vulnerable to these problems, I do think it's fair to say that the scandals we've seen under the current White House and Congress - both legal and illegal - are far worse than most of us could have imagined.

Think about it. In the past several months, we've seen the head of the White House procurement office arrested. We've seen some of our most powerful leaders of both the House and the Senate under federal investigation. We've seen the indictment of Jack Abramoff and his cronies. And of course, last week, we saw a member of Congress sentenced to eight years in prison for bribery.

Now, some have dismissed these scandals by saying that "everybody does it." Well, not everybody does it. And people shouldn't lump together those of us who have to raise funds to run campaigns but do so in a legal and ethical way with those who invite lobbyists in to write bad legislation. Those aren't equivalent, and we're not being partisan by pointing that out.

The fact is, since our federal government has been controlled by one political party, this kind of scandal has become the regular order of business in this town.

For years now, some on the other side of the aisle have openly bragged about stocking K Street lobbying firms with former staffers to increase their power in Washington, a practice that should stop today and never happen again.

But what's truly offensive to the American people about all of this goes far beyond people like Jack Abramoff. It's bigger than how much time he'll spend in jail or how many members of Congress he'll turn in. Bigger than the K Street project and golf junkets to Scotland and lavish gifts for lawmakers.

What's truly offensive about these scandals is that they don't just lead to morally offensive conduct on the part of politicians; they lead to morally offensive legislation that hurts hardworking Americans.

When big oil companies are invited into the White House for secret energy meetings, it's no wonder they end up with billions in tax breaks while most working people struggle to fill up their gas tanks and heat their homes.

When a Committee Chairman negotiates a Medicare bill one day and then negotiates for a job with the drug industry the next, it's hardly a surprise that that industry gets taxpayer-funded giveaways in the same bill that forbids seniors from bargaining for better drug prices.

When the people running Washington are accountable only to the special interests that fund their campaigns, it's not shocking that the American people find their tax dollars being spent with reckless abandon.

Since George Bush took office, we've seen the number of registered lobbyists in Washington double. In 2004, over $2.1 billion was spent lobbying Congress. That amounts to over $4.8 million per Member of Congress.

How much do you think the American people were able to spend on their Senators or Representatives last year? How much money could the folks who can't fill up their gas tanks spend? How much could the seniors forced to choose between their medications and their groceries spend?

Not $4.8 million. Not even close.

This is the bigger story here. The American people believe that the well-connected CEOs and hired guns on K Street who've helped write our laws have gotten what they paid for. They got all the tax breaks and loopholes and access they could ever want. But outside this city, the people who can't afford the high-priced lobbyists and don't want to break the law are wondering, "When is it our turn? When will someone in Washington stand up for me?"

We need to answer that call. Because while only some are to blame for the corruption that has plagued this city, all are responsible for fixing it.

As you know, I'm from Chicago - a city that hasn't always had the cleanest reputation when it comes to politics in this country. But during my first year in the Illinois State Senate, I helped lead the fight to pass Illinois' first ethics reform bill in twenty-five years. I hope we can do something like that here.

But we have to pass a serious bill, and it has to go a long way towards correcting some of the most egregious offenses of the last few years and preventing future offenses as well. This is not a time for window-dressing or putting a band-aid on a problem just to score political points. This is a time for real reform. I think the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, which has 41 cosponsors, established the right marker for reform, and I commend Senator Harry Reid and his staff for their hard work in putting it together.

Real reform means making sure that Members of Congress and senior Administration officials wait until they leave office before pursuing jobs with industries they're responsible for regulating.

Billy Tauzin may say he wasn't negotiating for a job with the drug industry at the same time he was negotiating the Medicare bill, but the fact is this: while he was a Member of Congress, he was negotiating for lobbying jobs with not one, but two different industries that he was responsible for regulating: the drug industry and the motion picture association. That's wrong, and that shouldn't happen anymore.

Real reform means ensuring that a ban on lobbying after members of Congress leave office is real and includes the behind the scenes coordination and supervision activities now used to skirt the ban.

Real reform means giving the public access to now-secret conference committee meetings and posting all bills on the Internet at least a day before they're voted on, so the public can scrutinize what's in them.

Real reform means passing a bill that eliminates all gifts and meals from lobbyists, not just the expensive ones.

And real reform must mean real enforcement. Because no matter how many new rules we pass, it will mean very little unless you have a system to enforce them.

I commend Senators Lieberman and Collins for their efforts to create such an enforcement mechanism through an independent Office of Public Integrity. While this proposal doesn't go quite as far as my proposal for an outside ethics fact-finding commission, it's still very good, and I will work with them to try to get it included in this bill.

But to truly earn back the people's trust - to show them that we're working for them and looking out for their interests - we have to do more than just pass a good bill this week. We have to fundamentally change the way we do business around here.

That means instead of meeting with lobbyists, it's time to start meeting with some of the 45 million Americans with no health care.

Instead of finding cushy political jobs for unqualified buddies, it's time to start finding good-paying jobs for hardworking Americans trying to raise a family.

Instead of hitting up the big firms on K Street, it's time to start visiting the workers on Main Street who wonder how they'll send their kids to college or whether their pension will be around when they retire.

All these people have done to earn access and gain influence is cast their ballot. But in this democracy, it's all anyone should have to do.

A century ago, that young, reform-minded governor of New York who later became our twenty-sixth President gave us words about our country everyone in this town would do well to listen to today. Teddy Roosevelt said that,

"No republic can permanently endure when its politics are corrupt and base...we can afford to differ on the currency, the tariff, and foreign policy, but we cannot afford to differ on the question of honesty. There is a soul in the community, a soul in the nation, just exactly as there is a soul in the individual; and exactly as the individual hopelessly mars himself if he lets his conscience be dulled by the constant repetition of unworthy acts, so the nation will hopelessly blunt the popular conscience if it permits its public men continually to do acts which the nation in its heart of hearts knows are acts which cast discredit upon our whole public life."

I hope that this week, we in the Senate will take the first step towards strengthening this nation's soul and bringing credit back to our public life.

Thank you.