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Murray Statements at HELP Committee Executive Session

HELP Committee Executive Session
Senator Murray Statements
January 28, 2015

Executive Session Opening Statement:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thanks to you and your staff for your cooperation with me and my staff on the items before us today.

“I intend to support each of the items on today’s agenda and urge my colleagues to do so as well. I’d like to say a few brief words about the first few items of business today. 

“First, I am glad we could come together in a bipartisan way to organize the committee for the new Congress and move forward on both the funding resolution and on the continuation of the Committee’s Rules.

“I also want to thank my Members for their cooperation and their willingness to serve on the committee’s three subcommittees.  In particular I want congratulate the three ranking members, Senators Sanders, Franken, and Casey, as well as the three Chairmen, Senators Enzi, Isakson, and Paul.

“I think today shows that if we open a dialogue and work together in a bipartisan way, this Committee can get a lot done.  I hope we can continue to make that the norm in the 114th Congress on this Committee, so we can accomplish more for the American people.

“As we move through this agenda, we will be marking up the Older Americans Act and the Strengthening Education through Research Act today. And I’ll have more to say about those particular bills as they come up.  But from the outset, I’d like to say this process is an example of how the HELP committee can and should work together in a bipartisan way for future mark-ups.

“I’m looking forward to continuing to meet my Republican counterparts at the table to work on a truly bipartisan process going forward. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

Remarks on the Older Americans Act:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

“I believe we should be doing everything we can to support seniors in leading healthy, independent lives.

“This year marks the 50th anniversary of President Johnson first signing the Older Americans Act into law. So I am glad we can come together with a bipartisan bill to reauthorize this law that provides support for seniors across the country.

“The Older Americans Act supports critical social services and nutrition programs for seniors. As one example, this bill would ensure funding for Meals on Wheels.

“In my home state of Washington, more than 460,000 seniors enroll in Meals on Wheels, and the program is a critical lifeline for seniors, not just in Washington state, but for seniors all over the United States. 

“Among other important provisions, the bill also puts in place strong protections against elder abuse by increasing existing abuse screenings and prevention efforts. And, it provides resources for disease prevention, senior centers, and family caregiver support.

“I’m glad we’re moving forward on this bill and I’m glad we were able to work in a bipartisan way to bring it to mark-up today. Thank you.”

Remarks on the Strengthening Education Through Research Act:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’m glad to move forward on this bill.

“Education research is critical to giving teachers, school leaders, local policymakers, and us here in Congress valuable information on what works in the classroom. And it’s high-quality research that can help states and schools raise student achievement levels.

“This bill would make it easier for states and schools to access useful data. And it would make the research more relevant to state and local needs.

“Furthermore, this bill would direct the Department of Education to prioritize serving schools with high numbers of low-income students with technical assistance. This bill is the result of strong bipartisan work. And I am hopeful that the HELP Committee will continue to work together in a truly bipartisan way on other education priorities over the next few weeks and months.

“Thank you.”

Remarks on Nominations:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank you and your staff for moving forward so quickly and I’d also like to express my support for all of the nominees we have before the Committee today.

“Ms. Allison Beck is highly qualified to lead the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and I strongly support her nomination. For five years, she served as deputy director of the agency, and is currently the acting director. Through that experience, Ms. Beck has successfully brought labor groups and management together to bring about constructive outcomes for all sides. And her nomination is especially significant, because, if confirmed, she would be the first woman to hold the position.

“Having capable leaders to handle arbitrations and mediations is so important to workers, businesses, and our economy. As many of you know, along the West Coast, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association are in negotiations on a new contract.  Every sector of Washington state’s economy and the livelihood of dockworkers rely on our ports operating at their best. So it could not be more important for the PMA and the ILWU to reach an agreement as soon as possible.

“Federal mediators are now working with both parties to help sides reach an amicable agreement. These ongoing negotiations underscore the strong role that federal mediators play in helping workers and businesses, and making sure our economy can operate smoothly.  For all of these reasons, I’m glad to move forward on Allison Beck’s nomination for the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

“I also support Adri Jayaratne in his nomination for Assistant Secretary of the Department of Labor. He is currently the Deputy Assistant Secretary, and has been in the Office for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs since 2009. 

“In his current post, and since the Assistant Secretary position became vacant last year, he has worked diligently to improve communications with Congress, to speed up responses to Congressional inquiries, and to make the Department more accessible and transparent. I have had an opportunity to work with him a number of times.  My staff works with him almost daily, and I couldn’t be more supportive of his nomination, and his confirmation.

“And, for the vacancies on the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, I support Mary Lu Jordan and Michael Young’s nominations. The commission is an independent agency that decides legal disputes that arise under the Mine Act, and both of these nominees are highly qualified for their posts.

“In her latest term on the Commission, Ms. Jordan served as the Chairman since 2009 and a member since 2003.  Mr. Young has been a member of the Commission since 2003.

“The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission plays a critical role in ensuring workplace safety and worker protections, and I’m confident Ms. Jordan and Mr. Young will continue to carry out that mission.

“So, we have a slate of highly qualified nominees and I’m glad to move forward with those today. Thank you.”