I rise to talk about a very important constituent of mine, a six-year old girl named Abigail, who was severely hurt this past summer in a pool accident, something that could have been prevented if this body and the House of Representatives had acted a few years ago on a pool safety bill. Today we have an opportunity before we go into recess, before the year ends, to do the right thing.
Before I talk about that, I’d like to make note of the President's remarks today on the subprime housing crisis that threatens our nation's economy. While I am pleased that after months of trying to wish the problem away, the President has finally decided to come forward with a proposal for this problem, today's announcement is really only a small step toward helping homeowners faced with foreclosure. We must do more if we are truly going to address this problem.
In the world of subprime lending the chickens have finally come home to roost. Nearly 8.6% or one in 12 subprime mortgages in my state, the state of Minnesota, are in foreclosure. Minnesota has the fourth highest foreclosure rate in the second quarter of this year. The results of this spike in foreclosures will be devastating for our state as it will be for other states across the country. As the number of foreclosures increase, property values are likely to drop resulting in decreased tax revenues and increased municipal maintenance costs. Slumping housing values are also likely to result in decreased consumer spending and could jeopardize the overall economy.
If we are to contain the economic spillover of the subprime lending disaster, we must act now. We need additional reforms to protect borrowers, such as ensuring that borrowers actually understand the terms of their mortgage in a simple one-page description of their terms, including the ability to repay the loan at the teaser rate and adjusted rate. We need to ensure that homeowners are not hit with a huge or unexpected tax or insurance bill at the end of the year by escrowing that amount.
I'm a cosponsor of the borrower's protection act that would require mortgage lenders to protect consumers from predatory practices. Banks today are regulated in such a way to make sure that they do not offer these loans. I want to make sure that other lenders, non-bank lenders, these predatory lenders are asked to follow the same rules. We need to protect the economy and take comprehensive action now before it's too late.
Millions of families have been waiting for the President to take a seat at the table and let's hope that as we move forward we can enact something that truly addresses the needs of these families.
But I come here today to discuss, as I said, a constituent of mine, a little 6-year-old girl named Abbey Taylor, a very brave little girl. And I hope this story will give people a sense of urgency about moving the legislation that is currently before the Senate.
Now I know we have big bills before us, and I have come to the floor urging my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to allow these bills to proceed. Bills like the Farm Bill, which is important to so many farmers in my state. We need to get these appropriation bills moving that the President has threatened to veto. The transportation bill has stopped despite the push of the Democrats.
That included, Mr. President, $195 million in funding that will help us to complete the work on the I-35w bridge that so tragically fell on a beautiful day in Minnesota right into the middle of the river. It should never have happened.
Sometimes the bills that we work on here make a difference in a very small way. Maybe a way that isn't as big, that you don't talk about as much on TV, but a way that can help save lives, lives of girls like Abbey Taylor. This legislation has already passed the Commerce Committee unanimously and it's awaiting our action.
This legislation would help prevent serious injury or death to other children in the future. I want to convey the sense of urgency on behalf of Abbey Taylor and her parents to each and every one of you. I want you to know that families across our country are waiting for us to finally pass this legislation, and one of those families is the Taylor family of Edina, Minnesota.
This summer their daughter Abbey went swimming at a local pool. She was in a shallow wading pool when she sat down over a drain and had most of her intestines drawn out by the drain's powerful suction. It is a miraculous gift that she lived. She sat up and moved away from the suction when so many other children have perished when the same thing has happened to them. She somehow managed to stand up and take a few steps before collapsing along the side of the wading pool.
She remained hospitalized for weeks after undergoing several surgeries. She will survive, thanks to a miracle, but her doctors expect she will need a feeding tube for the rest of her life. Now she is on a list waiting for a transplant.
What happened to this little 6-year-old girl on a summer’s day in Minnesota is horrific. My own daughter's name is Abigail and hearing about this incident brings chills to any parent. When I first saw the story in our local newspaper, I had to stop reading it because the details of it were so disturbing. This is something that we could have prevented.
You look at this first as a mother. Your daughter is enjoying a beautiful summer day, having fun playing at the local pool. Not the deep end of the pool, this is the kiddy wading pool. Suddenly something terrible happens and your life is changed forever. That's what happened to the Taylor’s.
When it was first reported, like everyone else, I thought it was some kind of a freak one of a kind accident. I never thought I would spend time talking about it on the Senate floor, and I certainly didn't think I would have to come to the Senate floor twice to talk about it when, the bill that addresses this passed our committee unanimously and passed the Senate years back.
But then I learned that this is not the first time that this has happened. As it turns out, although most pools are safe and well maintained, this type of incident has happened too many times before, resulting in the death of several dozen children over the past 15 years.
It even has a name. It's called pool entrapment. It incurs when a child becomes stuck on a drain and is unable to escape due to high velocity and pressure of the water that's being sucked into the drain. Another scenario occurs when hair or jewelry gets sucked into the drain, making it difficult for a child to pull free. According to the consumer product safety commission, the pressure on some pool drains can be as strong as 300 pounds per inch. In fact, several years ago the Consumer Product Safety Commission produced an educational video on this danger. It showed a muscle-bound man trying to pull a ball off a swimming pool drain using both arms and with all of his might and he couldn't do it. The suction force was just too powerful.
Two years ago the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a report saying that it was aware of at least 27 deaths, and many more emergency room visits and hospitalizations due to entrapment. Most of these victims were children.
It is unclear how many actual entrapment incidents there have been that have not resulted in death, but instead in severe injury. Entrapment is a little known risk. It is possible that some have not been classified as entrapment.
Mr. President, this legislation must pass. The legislation has several important provisions. It would take the Consumer Product Safety Commissions standards for pool drains, which are now voluntary, and make them mandatory. It would prohibit the Manufacturer and sale or distribution of drain-offs that do not meet the standards set by the commission. Most importantly, and this is an enormous improvement over the bill that this body passed years ago, it requires that all public pools in this country, including hotel, apartment, local, municipal, and other pools intended for multiple users, be equipped with anti-entrapment drain covers.
These drain covers are something like $30 apiece. This is an amendment that I introduced on behalf of people like Abbey. In addition we have an agreement on another provision that would require that all of these public pools with single main drains incorporate an additional layer of protection to guard against the entrapment. We're talking not about private pools, but huge public pools used by thousands and thousands of children.
This legislation is called the Virginia Graham Baker Pool Spa Safety Act, named after 7-year-old Virginia Graham, the granddaughter of former secretary of State James Baker. I talked to Secretary of State Baker about a week ago about this and we both concurred in our frustration that while this legislation has huge bipartisan support, it is being held up by one of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Someone who I think said wants to work with us and get this through. But so far we have been unsuccessful despite several efforts.
I talked to James Baker, but just as importantly, every other week I have talked to the Taylor’s and they always ask me, have we gotten this legislation passed yet? Now what do you say when you talk to the father of this little girl Abbey Taylor who continues to struggle in the months that have passed since losing her intestines, do you tell her that we passed it unanimously through the committee, but now it's stuck. That one person is able to hold up a bill that 99 other people support?
These parents are so courageous that they have moved on from this tragedy and they want her severe injury discussed today. They wanted me to discuss this. They want the world to know what happened to her. Because they don't want it to happen to another little girl again. They're not afraid to have us talk about what happened to their little daughter because they want it to never happen to another child again.
There is a saying that when an accident happens that could reasonably have been prevented that it's not really accurate to call it an accident - it's actually a failure. In the case of injuries and deaths caused by pool entrapment, it's not a failure by children or their parents. They have a reasonable expectation to think that their child can go into a public wading pool and not lose their intestines. It's really a failure of our country, of our product safety laws, and we all have to take responsibility for it. Just like we have to take responsibility for the toxic toys that shouldn't be in our stores.
This is something that we need to get done before we go home for the holidays. It is a failure whether it is about the toys, or it is about the pool drains. It is a failure within our power to correct. A problem that can be faced through reasonable measures and fixed by legislation. I think the fact that Senator Stevens supports this bill and has worked with us on it, the fact that we have Republican support for this bill, shows that this isn't just some whacky legislation. We worked with people on both sides on this. We worked with manufacturers on this. We worked with the consumer groups, and we came up with a reasonable bill.
So I would ask my colleagues, what am I supposed to tell this dad when I talk to him tonight? Am I supposed to tell him that some rule in the Senate says that one person can hold up a bill against the will of the entire body? I don't want to tell him that. I want to tell him that we were able to work this out and get this bill through and to make sure that no other parents are sitting in a waiting room in a hospital for weeks while they wait to find out if their daughter is going to live or if there is going to be a transplant for their daughter.
I want to tell them that this isn't going to happen again. On behalf of Abbey Taylor and the Taylor family and for the health and safety for all of our children, I urge the Senate to take quick action to pass these simple consumer measures that are before us. To pass the measure about the toys, to pass the measure about the pool drains. We're dealing about huge issues in this body, the war in Iraq, foreign intelligence; we're talking about the Farm Bill. We want these to pass. But these consumer bills can actually have an impact immediately in a little child's life so let's go back and get this done. Thank you, Mr. President, and I yield the floor.