tv [untitled] March 15, 2016 7:00pm-8:01pm EDT
to ask the governor for state funds to reconnect to the detroit water system during your time, during your watch? >> again, we were trying to manage the issue and -- >> and the smell of the water and the constant complaints were not enough of a warning for you to try to do something beyond rely on the experts? i mean, the experts seem to have been, mr. earley, in the public. drinking the water. >> we relied on the michigan department of environmental quality. and we got the information from them. >> all right, mr. earley, i'm sorry. my time is limited. sue mccormick of detroit water wrote to
you offering to continue supplying water to flint, michigan, until the water authority's project was complete. but you wrote back, there will be no need for flint to continue purchasing water to serve its
residents and businesses after april 17th, 2014. why did you reject this offer? to continue using detroit water as a source. >> just to be clear, the letter you refer to went to the city clerk at the time. i was -- >> you had no knowledge of this letter? >> i was not the emergency manager at the time that the letter came in. by the time i got there, we had already been notified that the contract had been terminated. but we could still -- >> but you were the emergency manager before the switch was implemented on your watch, you could say wait a minute. i'm in charge now. wasn't this your job to look at what should be done now? now
that you are in charge, sir? >> we did look at that, and again, we followed the guidelines based on the information we were given. but importantly, in that letter, is that -- >> what about the warning that
came -- imagine receiving a warning from somebody in the line who says, i have people above me making plans to distribute water as soon as possible. i'm reluctant to go with -- was reluctant to go before. but after looking at the monitoring schedule and current staffing, i do not anticipate giving the okay to begin sending this water out any time, if any water is distributed from this plant in the next couple of weeks, it will be against my direction. what more did you need, mr. earley? >> that did not go to me, ma'am. that did not go to me. that e-mail went to the director of the department, i do believe. it did not go to me. >> your name is on the letter, mr. earley. >> is this the one from -- you're talking two different things. >> what's other things, sir? >> the letter from the the dwsd and an e-mail that came from one
of the operators that talked about the distribution of water. >> the gentlewoman's time has expired. now recognize the gentleman from florida, mr. mica. >> mr. chairman and the members of the committee, i think this hearing is going to be known as the great finger-pointing hearing. and we've got flint mayor throwing people under the bus. we've got the flint emergency manager throwing people under the bus. and we've got ms. hedman, former epa administrator, for that area throwing people under the bus. it's somewhere it seems like people were asleep at the tap and not doing their job. now, if the locals failed, the mayor failed, the emergency managers failed, and there were failures there, mr. edwards,
what -- what role would the federal government have? >> they're the last resort. they're the last line of defense. they're the last hope of flint residents. >> if -- and the reason we put epa together was to protect people, right? in cities, in communities and states where they did not act to protect the water of the people, right? >> that's correct. >> okay. were they notified? there's some heros in this. first the hero, she's here today, is ms. walters and her family because they notified the local people and the federal people and everybody they could, that they were poisoning their kids. mr. del toral wrote an incredible memo. he acted, ms. hedman, wasn't he an epa official? >> he's an epa scientist. >> yeah. he did a great job. a high schooler could read his memo, which he produced. there's a copy of his memo. june 24th.
it tells you the violations of the city. it tells you the incompetence. then it tells you the poisoning of their children. it's documented. and all the steps and the violations of flint are listed here. not just this, but they have a history. they're listed on the back. a high schooler could read this and evaluate it. you got that memo, right, ms. hedman? >> i'm not sure when i got that memo. >> but you got it, right? okay. june. and, mayor, you were aware of this and you two talked, didn't you? did you talk to her about this memo? >> yes. >> mayor? you did talk to her. but, sir, i went back and checked to see if you talked to your constituents, the woman and families who were being poisoned. we knew this early in 2015. they knew it at the end of 2014. we have the test here that proved, that he went in and he
tested the pipes. he did everything. first they said it was the pipes were lead into the house. they weren't lead. they were plastic. they were pvc. there was no lead in there. so -- you told her at the library on march 31st you were aware of it. you went to ms. walters and told were you aware of the situation, you take care of it, right? you'd do anything. didn't you tell that to your constituent? >> yes. >> she showed up april 2nd, 2015, at your office and they said you were gone for easter, but they would be back with her on monday, right? that's what they told her. i'm telling you and that's what she told me. today is what, 2015, 2016, march 15th. you haven't been back with her since. but you were aware of this memo. you read this memo. they tried to suppress this memo.
this wasn't a pretty memo because it said your constituents were being poisoned. so this is an incredible failure i believe at all levels, particularly the federal level. that's our responsibility. when we get a memo like this from someone with epa doing their job and a constituent who reports it and we have the evidence of the poisoning. this, mr. del toral is a hero. and the things he did, every test possible. he conducted every test possible. is that right? you read it, mr. edwards? did you read this? >> his memo has proven to be 100% accurate in every way, shape and form. >> and yet, ignored at the local level. ignored at the emergency management level. and then the overseeing, that's our responsibility. when all of these levels fail, epa -- you never acted for what, five months after this memo, ms.
hedman? >> that's incorrect. in fact, the following day i offering lead experts to the mayor, and within three weeks, we had concluded an agreement with mdeq to order flint to issue corrosion control. >> and what did they do? >> they issued an order -- >> did they do it? >> they did eventually. >> eventually, when? >> they issued an order on august 17th directing the city of flint to implement corrosion control. >> and the time is ticking and nothing is done and you never went back on them. there was really no plan in place for more than five months. >> that's not true. >> it was ignored. it is the whole truth and nothing but the truth, i hate to tell you. and again, i think epa also failed. so we had failure at multiple levels. mr. edwards, you've seen cases. you said this isn't uncommon of how they failed across the country. is that not the case in flint?
>> well, i mean, there's a climate out there where lead in water problems are covered up. that people are cheating on the sampling and that climate allowed flint to occur. allowed these unethical civil servants at mdeq to assert that there was no corrosion whatsoever. even when they were breaking federal corrosion control law. >> thank you. >> mr. clay is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. you know, there were numerous red flags that should have led the state to agree to return to the detroit water. bacterial contamination in the water as early as summer 2014. the legionella outbreak, the astronomical lead readings in leanne walters' home. all of these early signs should have been reason enough to consider returning to a safe water supply. but the response was always the same. it was not in emergency
manager's financial plan for the city to return to the detroit water system. on january 9th, 2015, in response to concerns that it had been raised about the safety of flint's water, mr. earley, you wrote and i quote, suggestions have been made that the city of flint should return to using water purchased through the detroit water and sewage department. for many reasons, financial and otherwise, the city of flint can ill-afford to switch courses at this point. you also said it is not financially prudent to spend $18 million to purchase water that meets the same deq standards as the water now available from the flint river. mr. earley, obviously, now we know that the water from the flint river was not meeting the same standards as water coming from detroit.
is that correct? >> yes, sir. >> and then, did you consider changing course at any point after serious concerns had been raised about the quality and safety of the river water? >> well, at the time that you reference, we had already enlisted the aid of another water expert to determine exactly what the causes were. we were trying to diagnose the causes. again, we were dealing with the issue of coliform, tthm, e. coli and other issues. we were not talking about lead at the time. the point is simply this. the city of flint did not have the money. >> but sometimes -- i mean, look. common sense should take over. the general motors plant stopped using the water when it started to rust new parts. what would that tell -- what would that tell the average
person? i mean, they need to stop drinking it. i mean, come on. is it that difficult to determine? >> we continued to rely on the michigan department of environmental quality. until such time as they deemed the water unsafe to drink, we were doing all that we could to manage the contamination and to also make the water accessible and -- >> look. look. after the january 15th, 2015, letter, a few days later, the director of the detroit water system sent you a letter offering to reconnect the city of flint to the detroit water supply. why did you reject the director's offer? >> i did not do that. i was gone from flint. i had left flint by that time that letter came out. that rejection was written by my successor.
again, there were four emergency managers during this period. that letter of rejection came from my successor. >> okay. and so it came down to you or your successor trying to save $18 million? >> it came down to the fact that the city did not have $18 million. they were already paying some of the most exorbitant and the highest water rates in the country we have litigation pending now from the customers who are fighting the rates for the water even before the contamination. >> going along with your line of thinking then, where does -- when do we say, okay, public health and safety matters? and it's the responsibility of the state of michigan or the epa to step in and say, we are endangering lives, we are
endangering people? for the rest of their lives. when does that occur? >> from day one, sir. from day one. >> but you didn't do it. >> the issues of lead contamination came out in 2015. they came out after that. we were -- the issues we were dealing with in terms of contaminated water were the tthms, the e. coli, and the coliform materials that were found in the water. and that was a result of the distribution system age. it was the result of the number of water main breaks that we had at that particular time. i mean, this was a perfect storm for things to happen while we were switching from one water source to another. but we tried to manage those. >> all right. well, i mean, but didn't common2 sense tell you what general motors did, when they changed the water system that they were using because it was rusting the parts? what did that say to you? >> what we were told regarding that situation was because of the raw nature of the machined parts that general motors was
producing the treatment materials we were putting in to treat the water was, indeed, having a negative impact on their products. but it did not correlate to a negative impact on consumption of the water according to the deq. >> mr. chairman, for the record, i have a letter in response from -- signed by darnell earley rejecting detroit water's offer to change back. so make this part of the record, too. >> without objection, sir. >> i yield back. >> before the gentleman yields back, mr. edwards, i give you an opportunity to respond to this inquiry, as well. did you have something you wanted to -- sounded like you wanted to -- okay. gentleman yields back. i'll actually recognize myself for five minutes. ms. hedman, when did you first know there was a problem with the water in flint? >> the first time i was briefed was december of 2014. i was briefed on the tthm issue,
the disinfection by-product issue. my staff have instructions when there's a significant violation in the system they bring it to my attention. and they briefed me shortly before -- >> you knew about it in 2014. when did you have your first conversation with mayor walling? >> my first conversation about tthm, about the disinfection by-products, occurred in late february. he requested a drinking water expert in that area. and i supplied him with an expert from the epa lab in cincinnati. >> mr. walling, you went on television in july of 2015 and told everybody that it was safe to drink the water. did you just do that on your own? or who told you that that was a viable thing to say? >> the mdeq had repeatedly provided assurances that we heard over and over again in our technical advisory meetings, discussions with staff that the water was meeting the standards, that it was safe to drink. >> did you have a discussion with the epa?
>> dr. hedman and i spoke around that time after the del toral memo was provided to me in flint. >> what did she say? >> it was explained to me that that memo was under review. that the scope of the problem was being assessed and my understanding at the time was this was limited to very particular cases because of what was there for lead service lines and plumbing and individual houses. >> mr. edwards, what's your take on that? >> the e-mail is very clear from ms. hedman that she apologized for mr. del toral's memo and mr. walling asked her if there was anything that should be of concern to flint residents and she said, frankly, no. >> ms. hedman, why did you do that? >> i didn't apologize for the memo. i apologized for taking all day to get back to the mayor and that is because i was out of the office for a medical procedure. and in fact -- >> that was one day.
>> in fact, during the entire time period that dr. edwards imagines i was covering up data% and silencing scientists i was actually out of the office. i did not return until july 13th. during that time period, my deputy, bob kaplan, who dr. edwards describes as one of the good guys, was actually in charge of the office. >> so, mr. edwards, this memo from mr. del toral is pretty comprehensive, is it not? does it tackle the issue? does it inform them as to the health of the water? >> yes. it points out that flint is not being protected by federal law and public health is in danger. >> when should that information have been released? >> had epa just stayed silent and not apologized for the memo to mr. walling and told mr. walling that mr. dell toral was
accurate in what he said, i doubt mr. walling would have gone on tv to drink the water and tell flint residents that it was save. >> is that true, mr. walling? were you talked out of it? the memo comes out. you're getting inquiries from news organizations, the aclu and others saying, hey, what are you doing about this? and you go on television and say it's safe. >> i did trust the guidance that i was receiving and that's what i regret in this. looking back. but i deliberately reached out. i asked the white house office of intergovernmental affairs for a point of contact in the epa. this is while the city of flint was still under emergency manager because i wanted to double check on what we were hearing from the state regulators. and when we're hearing essentially the same thing from the state and the federal regulators, then i relied on that information and that's what i -- >> what did the white house ask you to do? did they ask you to communicate with who? >> no. i asked the white house for a point of contact. once i was --
>> and the white house directed you to -- >> dr. susan hedman. >> and that's where -- how long did it take before the epa finally confirmed, came back and said, yeah, that del toral report is accurate? they didn't, did they? they never did. that's the point. you left office. you were there for months and months and they never did come back and actually confirm it. mr. edwards, is that correct? >> that's correct. ms. hedman, you were there being paid by the taxpayers until january, late january of 2016. why did it take you so long? >> mr. del toral's memo actually dealt with lead at one residence and two neighboring residences. and the conclusion of the final version of his memo was that the problem had been caused by a physical disturbance of a lead
service line and that it was particular to that household. >> mr. edwards, this is not a report about one house, was it? >> mr. del toral clearly pointed out that flint was not being protected by federal corrosion control laws, period and that the public health of an entire city was in danger. >> this is where you're fundamentally and totally wrong, ms. hedman. and if you don't recognize that now, we're in mid-march, 2016, and you still don't get it. you still don't get it. and neither does the epa administrator. you screwed up. and you messed up people's lives. >> mr. chairman, mr. del toral -- >> no, no, the audience, please. ms. hedman? >> mr. del toral was one of several people at region 5 who were concerned about the failure to implement corrosion control. and had been communicating to
mdeq at higher and higher levels of epa management -- >> this information was out there publicly. it had been released. you didn't like it, did you? did mr. del toral -- if somebody released that report, did he do the right thing or not do the right thing? >> i don't believe he released the report. >> okay. >> i think we need to be clear that there was -- >> was that the right thing for that report to go public? >> there were three reasons why epa could not release that report. >> what are those? >> the first is that it contained personally identifiable information, health information, and that kind of information is not something in that we could release. and so, before a report is released that is typically redacted by our office of regional -- >> a black pen would take ten seconds or so. okay. keep going. >> secondly, the material in the report included enforcement sensitive information, and we do not release that to the targets or to the general public.
again, that would have been a redaction issue. and then additionally, there was data in the report that we neither collected nor analyzed and it needed to go through a kind of standard qaqc. i directed that that be done as soon as possible. it was my expectation that the report could be finalized and put in a form that could be publicly released before the reporter had to file his story. that was my expectation at the time. >> and it took seven months. mr. edwards, your reaction to her comments? >> i'm just in disbelief. >> my time is well expired. we'll now recognize the gentleman from virginia, mr. connolly, for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. you know, i was in local government, mr. edwards, for 14 years in virginia. and my point of contact on the environment almost always was the department of environmental quality. i thought you gave a very
eloquent, passionate and suitably outraged opening statement. but you focus on epa almost exclusively in that statement. but when we actually get to how government works, what the mechanics of it are, a local government relates first to the deq. and the environmental protection agency doesn't run water authorities around the country. it requires -- it relies on the state deq. and i just -- you know, i've heard a lot of talk about let's not finger-point. but we do need to get to the bottom of this and how it works. and i don't think this is epa's finest moment. but i, for one, coming from local government for 14 years am not going to let the local deq off the hook because it sounds better for one political philosophy to try to shift this entire blame onto the federal government. there's plenty of blame to go around.
but i don't want to be an enabler to avoid getting to the bottom of what happened and who let it happen. let me just say, mr. earley, you said it was your successor who declined the offer of detroit water. but my colleague, mr. clay, entered into the record a letter dated march 7th, 2014, addressed to sue mccormick, detroit water and sewer department, signed by you. and you say in that letter, we expect the flint water treatment plant will be fully operational and capable of treating flint water. prior to the date of termination in that case there will be no need for flint to continue purchasing water service, to serve its residents and businesses after april 17th. sue mccormick took that letter to be a rejection letter of the offer. did you intend it to be a
rejection letter of the offer? >> let me respond to that letter. there were two very distinct letters back to the detroit water and sewage department. one was drafted by me before, before the issues of lead were discussed. that's the letter you're making reference to. there was another drafted by the successor, mr. ambrose, that also said the same thing. my letter was in response to the fact that the project was already under way. that the city had invested millions of dollars into the new water system and they wanted a long-term water agreement which was not feasible. >> were you aware when you wrote this letter of concerns about the quality of water coming from the flint river? >> in march of? >> this is march 7, 2014. >> that was before the switch. that was before the switch from the -- >> xwu you were planning the switch. >> the switch was already planned well before i got there.
>> i understand. were you aware when you wrote this letter that there were concerns about the quality of the water coming from the flint river? >> we hadn't switched yet. >> i'm not asking that question. were you aware of had anyone brought to your attention -- >> no. >> that there were concerns about the flint river. >> no. >> did you have any reason to believe there were water quality concerns, taking water from the flint river? >> i did not, sir, because the deq had certified the water. the state had given the permits, all of the things were necessary to move forward with the project. >> your testimony today and other things you've written pretty harsh about the michigan department of environmental quality, correct? >> yes. >> you say it missed its opportunity to identify serious pipe corrosion problems. you say that it had multiple emphatic warnings from the epa, is that correct? >> yes. >> is it your testimony that mdeq ignored warnings from the epa?
>> i can't speak to why they reacted the way that they did. >> i didn't ask that question. factually, are you saying by saying that that they had multiple emphatic warnings from the epa, the clear implication of that statement is, and they ignored them. is that your testimony? >> no. >> ms. hedman, that statement that there were multiple emphatic warnings from the epa, what is mr. earley referring to from your point of view? >> what date is the letter again, please? >> he says in his testimony that the mdeq received multiple emphatic warnings from the epa. >> i thought you were referring to the letter. yes, we -- >> no, i'm not referring to the letter. i'm referring to mr. earley's testimony. >> in february of 2015, epa inquired about the type of corrosion control that was being implemented in flint.
and my staff was told that flint was fully optimized for corrosion control. it wasn't until april 24th that mdeq admitted to my staff for the first time that flint was not practicing corrosion control. at that time, from that day forward at higher and higher levels at epa, we repeatedly, emphatically and urgently told mdeq that it was important to implement corrosion control as soon as possible. >> all right. my time is up. mr. chairman, i want to thank you for the hearing and i want to thank you for thursday's planned hearing. irrespective of our politics or anything else this is a catastrophic failure with our citizens. and of government exists for any purpose it is to protect our citizens in health and safety and this is a catastrophic failure in that mission.
>> thank you. the gentleman yields back. i recognized gentleman from ohio, mr. jordan. >> i thank the chairman. i yield my time to the gentleman from michigan. >> mr. walberg. >> i thank the gentleman from ohio. let's go a little bit different track. i'd like to come back to ms. hedman again. but initially, first, epa finally actively intervened in flint in late january 2016. mr. edwards or dr. edwards, in the last few months what steps have been taken to make flint's water lead free? i saw you there saturday. i saw you talking with residents, talking about filters and all of the rest. what steps have been taken? >> they have switched back the detroit water. epa has implemented very good corrosion control effective december. we believe the lead levels are dropping dramatically, as the pipe coating is reestablished. and we are currently sampling
with flint residents, last week, to see house by house how much lower lead levels are now, and it's our hypothesis that lead is about four times better now than it was back during the height of the lead poisoning incidents in flint neighborhoods. >> how long do you think it will take for, reasonably speaking, for flint's water to be safe? >> in order to meet existing federal standards, which is not a high bar, as i've already said, you have to do a federally approved lead and copper rule sampling event that flint has never done in its history because they've never sampled the right homes, and they've been using sampling protocols that missed lead and water risks. >> do you have record even of those homes that they have sampled? >> yes, we do. but they did not have lead pipe as they -- as is specified. like other cities around the united states. philadelphia, it's now acknowledged, they didn't sample enough homes with lead pipe. according to the requirements of
the law. this is something that epa has been allowing for since 2006. >> do you believe it's necessary and reasonable for flint to replace all of the lead pipes? >> i think we have to, you know, obviously, that's desirable. i think everyone wants that to happen. no one wants is more than me. but i think we have to consider seriously what's the best place to invest in flint's future to help flint get back on their feet. they have needs in terms of water mains. flint has more water main breaks per mile than almost any other city in the united states. that's one of the reasons their water bills are so high. there's many infrastructure needs that have to be addressed. and in's why i'm in favor, although i don't think it does enough, i'm in favor of this flint bill to get money to flint residents for their infrastructure. >> we had heard, i believe,
saturday 40% water being wasted due to breaks in the line, leaking out. that's amazing. and talking about people having to pay those water bills when they're not even getting the water, let alone the water being safe to drink. let me go back to ms. hedman. in your testimony you stated quote i resigned in part about the false allegations about me that were published in early january. you specifically cite a january 12th, "detroit news" article titled, "epa stayed silent on flint's tainted water." in which mark edwards is extensively quoted. saying the people who knew about the lack of corrosion control should have acted immediately.
let me ask you, is it false, a false allegation to say that people who knew about the contamination should have acted? >> no. and we did. we did. as soon as i learned about this i offered lead experts to the mayor and we reached out again to mdeq and within three weeks had reached agreement that mdeq would order flint to implement corrosion control as soon as possible. and in the interim we issued a statement -- >> i think mr. del toral would not agree with that. and, mr. edwards, what's your position? >> she did nothing to protect flint's children. nothing. >> the article also quoted michigan senate minority leader of flint who says, anyone who read his memo and failed to act should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. that's the minority leader of the michigan legislature. mr. annanec. is he wrong, ms. hedman?
>> mr. del toral's memo contained the same things that i had been receiving from others and epa following through june 10th before that -- >> yet he was disciplined for his memo. >> he was not. he was not. he was not. >> he was disciplined for standing up as a whistle-blower. >> he was not. >> with that disagreement i yield back. >> did you make him go through ethics training? >> no. >> no? >> no. >> you really believe that? did you make him -- did you limit his travel? >> no. >> there was no discipline whatsoever? >> none whatsoever. >> is he a hero or a villain in this? >> he is a hero. and to be clear, i recommended him for epa's highest award. >> when? >> in about september. and in his typical, modest way, he declined to be nominated because his work wasn't finished. >> you need to go back and read
the e-mails and the memos that were provided to us by the epa because that is not what was happening within your organization. >> so -- >> and you were are in charge of that organization. >> so i can tell you that my deputy who was in charge during the time period that you're concerned about got wind of that and he went down to the water division and put an end to it. and when i called him, he told me that i didn't even have to tell him. he took care of it. >> did anybody at the epa do anything wrong? >> are you asking me to question if in -- if i could do this all over again -- >> no. i'm asking you. you were in charge. did anybody at the epa do anything wrong? >> i don't think anyone at epa did anything wrong but i do believe we could have done more. >> wow. you can watch this entire hearing on flint, michigan, drinking water contamination
from the house oversight committee tonight at 8:00 p.m. on c-span2 or cspan.org. this weekend, the c-span cities tour hosted by our charter communications cable partners takes you to montgomery, alabama, to explore the city's history and literary culture. on book tv -- >> we show you a house that was the turning point for scott and zelda. when they moved here, the idea was to regroup. what this house was was a landing pad. it was a regrouping as i've said stage and it wasn't the sort of place where you're going to find scott and zelda engaging in domestic activities if you will. it was the sort of place where they were going to be planning their next move. >> and on american history tv -- >> so what happens in the 1958 campaign is, you know, wallace really does try to reach this
racial moderate and really tries to campaign for the poor and working class alabamans and campaign for progressive improvements, and get it is support of the naacp in this initial campaign. but, unfortunately, he loses by pretty significant mar yin to john patterson and he completely is devastated by this loss. wallace, you know, all he wants to be is governor and really upset by this loss and he considers it a failing. and so, you know, when people ask him what the takeaway from the 1958 campaign is, he says, you know, i tried to talk about progressive improvements, i tried to talk about good roads and good schools and no one would listen. but when i started talking about segregation, everybody stopped and started listening to me. >> watch the c-span cities tour saturday at noon eastern on c-span2's book tv. and sunday afternoon at 2:00 on american history tv on c-span3.
the c-span cities tour, working with our cable affiliates and visiting cities across the country. >> when i tune in to it on the weekends, usually authors sharing their new releases. >> watching the nonfiction authors on book tv is the best television for serious readers they can have a longer conversation and delve into their subject. >> book tv weekends, they bring you author after author after author that spotlight the work of fascinating people. >> i love book tv and i'm a c-span fan. up next, congress wam castro talks about u.s. polly toward cuba. she joined us on this morning's "washington journal." >> democrat cathy castro of florida joins us now. last month led a bipartisan
delegation of six members of congress on a trip to cuba. what was on the agenda during that visit and who did you meet with? >> well, this was a fact finding mission. mainly to meet with the young entrepreneurs on the island. cuba is changing. they have made reforms in their economic system. used to be everyone would work for the government. the communist government. but after raul castro came in following fidel, he began to embark on economic reforms so a lot of folks that used to work for the government now own small businesses. for example, i met one young woman who used to work for the government inserting medicine bottles into a card board package. think about doing that every day all day. now she has the room to make baby clothes. she started a new business. scoured her neighborhood for sewing machines.
and has now hired people to work for her. goes to miami to import materials to make baby clothes, sells them in the store and to her neighbors. i met another gentleman who used to work for the government restoring all of those old cars, the old chevies you see on the roads in havana and across cuba. he now owns his own small business where he owns a number of those cars, rents them to tourists and chemos them up. so i think the new policy under way announced by president obama a couple years ago about greater engagement, the ideal is to impower those entrepreneurs to give them greater space and push the cuban government to begin to continue to reform their economic system. to go faster and to go further. >> i should note as we're talking about cuban-american relations in this segment, we'll have a special line set aside for cuban americans.
democrats, republicans and democrats on screen for you, as well. speaking of the president's trip, march 20th through 23rd, you're going to be going with i'm honored to go. this is going to be a historic visit. >> where are you going to tell him to visit? who does he have to talk to? >> well, unfortunately, he's not going to have a lot of time there but it will be very important that he meets with the same kind of entrepreneurs on the island who want a better life. they want to be able to control their own destiny, provide for their families like business people and our neighbors across america do. he also needs to meet with religious leaders and the catholic church. he should also meet with disdents, folk that is are trying to encourage greater reforms in the human rights space. cuba can do a lot better when it comes to human rights. but we are also going to attend a baseball game. if you know anything about
baseball, and cuba, they love baseball. and, of course, america has a passion for baseball. this is something that we share. so i'm excited because my hometown team, the tampa berets will be playing the cuban national team and this is kind of a goodwill gesture between both countries, but at the same time, there's a reform under way to ensure that cuban baseball players can come to play in america without having to pay a ransom to folks that sneak them off the island and just to play baseball here. >> the president's efforts to restore relations with cuba not without pushback here in the united states. marco rubio talked about this at thursday's debate. here's a bit of what he whatted to say and then i want your response. >> i would love the relationship between cuba and the united states but requires cuba to change at least its government. the fact of the matter is after these changes were made, there
are hundreds of millions of dollars to flow to the regime. it will allow them to be permanent and carry out a transition and the military continues to run the country there. they'll put puppet figure forward as the new president and nothing will change for the cuban people. there's not been a single democratic opening, not a single change on the island in terms of human rights. things are worse since than before the opening but now the cuban government has more sources of money to build out the repressive apparatus and maintain themselves permanently. compare that to the changes required in burma and by no means a perfect country but with a democratic opening to burma, they were required to make openings. it required democratic opening and now the majority party in the legislative body. he asked nothing in return and we are getting nothing in return and cuba and its regime remains an anti-american communist
dictatorship, helped north korea evade u.n. resolutions. and people stealing the medicaid money and all in exchange for nothing. >> congresswoman castro, what are we getting in return? >> well, i respectfully disagree with senator rubio. i have seen firsthand changes on the island. i have talked to the entrepreneurs that used to work for the communist government and now own their own small businesses. i have seen the change in the tourist sector especially. now the cuban people can travel to america. it's very difficult because it's an impoverished country and you have to have money to do it but a lot of the cuban-american families here in america are fueling these small businesses. they're helping their families. you know, i represent a community with a large cuban-american population and it has been a real education working for them, listening to
them, an they want change. this 50-year-old policy, cold war policy of isolation has not served the cuban people well. it's not served america well. in fact, the policy of the embargo and travel ban on americans is really a violation of americans' constitutional rights. we can travel anywhere in the world except cuba. why is that? because years ago, hard liners enshrined in the law the very hard core isolationist policy. i understand the trauma of what happened in the cuban revolution in 1959. but it's over 50 years from that now. we have got to change and it is going to be through a policy of engagement where we encourage human rights changes and economic changes because as hands off approach has not brought an end to their political system and now we see signs of hope because of engagement and because of what's
happening with businesses and human rights groups and churches in america engaging with the cuban people. >> you said the president should meet with dissidents while he is there. in january according to a report from the cuban commission for human rights and national reconciliation, some 1,400 cubans were detained for political reasons. that's just this past january. what should the president do? can he help those people during this visit next week? >> yes. i think president obama and the delegation of business leaders and the congressional delegation will be welcomed with open arms because the cuban people want a better life. and that's why it's important to engage. it's through engagement. let me give you a few examples. in my community, in tampa, the st. lawrence catholic church is funding the first new catholic parish, the first new catholic church on the island of cuba. that is being allowed due to the
changes in cuba. it used to be religions and new churches were hands off under fidel castro. over the past decade with pope francis' help and the leadership of the catholic church there's greater space for religious freedom on the island. they still have problems. but this is a good sign. cuba is also known for having a high literacy rate and a very high -- their health care system provides primary care to everyone. my cancer center in florida, the top rated cancer center, the moffitt cancer center and other institutions across america are engaging now with the doctors and medical community in cuba to help find treatments and cures for cancer and diabetes. we need to partner on these things. there's no reason you let governments get in the way of making progress for the people on either side of the florida straits. >> as you said, we have a special line in this segment for
cuban americans. 202-748-8003. as usual lines for democrats, republicans, and independents. we'll start with enid on the line for democrats, monroe, new york. enid, good morning. >> caller: yes, good morning. >> good morning. >> go ahead yuchlt're on with the congresswoman. turn down the tv and just talk. >> caller: good morning, congresswoman. >> good morning. >> caller: good morning, ma'am. i'm speaking to you. i am just concerned because president obama has opened the way to cuba. and he's getting the opposition from the opposition party. and i think that as america would look into the system of education and health system in cuba they could learn a lot from cuba. again, the other question is why is representative rubio is so much against the cuban decision
by the president? and why is he so far behind trump in his own state of florida with regard to the electorate process? >> a couple of questions there. >> yeah. well, thank you you for your qu. you know, i respect the experience cuban americans who lost everything under the cuban revolution and came to america and have lived out the american dream. but that was over 50 years ago. and when you think about just in that time, we fought wars with other countries. gosh, after world war ii, where we had a war with germany, we have been able to reconcile over the decades. they are an important partner of the united states. in the 1960s, we had a bloody war with vietnam. but over time we were able to heal those wounds and move on and modernize american policy. it's time do that with cuba.
our next door neighbor. and families in my community and across the state of florida are suggesting to policy makers, it's pastime to do that. that cold war isolationist policy of the past, we need to turn the page. president obama has been very bold in cracking open the door, recognizing there are economic reforms under way. and we need to use engagement to press the cuban government on greater human rights reforms as well. >> care to take a stab at the rubio-trump race in florida? >> well, florida politics are always very interesting. you know, opinions are changing when it comes to cuba policy. donald trump has set a few different things. almost been on both sides of the fence on this one on cuba policy. but not quite as hard line as senator rubio or senator cruz. but i respect where senator
rubio comes from. but i think respectfully he is wrong. we all want the same thing. whether you live in cuba or you live in america, our neighbors want to be able to provide for their families. they want to live in a safe and clean environment. unfortunately, that communist experiment did not work. when you travel to cuba, the people are largely impoverished except in the new sector of entrepreneurs and tourism. yes, they have a good health system and a good education system. but they need so much more. and that's why they're going to welcome president obama and business leaders and religious leaders and the congressional delegation with open arms, because they want a better life, and they see it's possible. >> let's head out to tennessee where tommy is waiting. good morning. >> caller: good morning. i have a suggestion. i believe that the woman's delegation from congress should
go down there and speak to the women of cuba and empower them to show their superior intellect so that perhaps they can make the changes necessary so that cuba can be as great a country as the united states. and it's because of the women of cuba. the women of cuba have suffered so much. they have -- they really have struggled to try to keep their families together. if american women can go down there and help them accomplish this, then i know cuba will be a shining light to all women around the world. thank you and have a blessed day. >> thank you so much. that's a very interesting point. and it reminds me that here in the congress, despite the country being about 50% female, 50% male, we're still stuck at about only 20% female in the congress. you know, cuba is better, actually, whether it comes to
females in the government. when i was there, we visited with the telecon company, the government-owned telecon company. the port where they want to make changes. all sorts of government leaders. they have better female representation. but still, they can do much better. what was particularly interesting, the early diplomatic discussions between the united states and cuba were led by two female diplomats. the senior western hemisphere diplomat out of the state department was female. she's now proposed to be the ambassador to mexico. and the other woman, who is the deputy lead diplomat for cuba, they were at the head of the table negotiating on important issues like cooperation in law enforcement and in drug interdiction and all sorts of restoration of diplomatic
relations. that made me very proud. it did not go unnoticed. >> let's go to pennsylvania where steven is waiting. steven, good morning. >> caller: thank you very much for allowing me to be back on. i just have one question for the senator. i thank you very much for taking my call. i heard during the convention a lady get up from south america who is in the lead of some organization. i wish i could remember. sorry about that. but it was concerning these countries where they have dictator dictators and well whatever you want to call them. and in order to get funding from -- help from the united states, they say they are having
privately owned businesses, as she's mentioning is happening in cuba. and her concern was that these dictators are giving these businesses or making it possible for friends of the state to own businesses. and actually, they're a part of the rule iing party that's in power. and i'm wondering if it's a shell game in cuba also with privatization opening up. are these actually friends of castro and his long supporters and all this? >> thanks for the question. >> good question. i think in any government system, they've got to have -- they've got to grapple with corruption and undue influence. we suffer some of the same issues here in the united states at all levels of government. and i think it's important for
cuba now as they evolve as their private sector and market economy begins to grow, they're going to have to institute certain basic fundamental rule of law requirements. we have seen that when the berlin wall fell and a lot of the eastern european countries began to modernize and change their economic systems. they have really grappled with it. but i think fundamentally, the new policy, the new u.s. policy of engagement towards cuba will help that along. this closed system of communism has not worked. i mean, they have relied in the past on funding from the soviet union. that ended. they have rely on oil revenue from venezuela. that has largely come to an end because of global energy issues and the fall of the value of
oil. so cuba has raised there's not going to be a free lunch where they can rely on other countries simply paying their way. they've got to reform their economy. and i think america's policy of engagement will help it along. it appears that when president obama leads this delegation next week, he will take along a number of business leaders and possibly make some announcements with marriott hotels, with starwood hotels. there's a tractor company that would like to sell small tractors to cuba and cuban people. from my neck of the woods, i represent a company called florida produce that has been exporting fresh fruit and vegetables to cuba. those businessmen would like to have a warehouse on cuban -- in cuba and be able to hire cubans to work there. these are the kind of small steps that will be very important as cuba changes their
economy. and it's a way to america to continue to press cuba to reform. >> some stats on the cuban economy from 2014 and 2015. m, n, and $15 million and imports -- petroleum, food, machinery, equipment, chemicals. some major import partners, venezuela, china, spain and brazil. export partners, venezuela, canada and china. we are talking to kathy castor. c-span's washington journal. live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up wednesday morning, representative john katko of new york's 24th district. a former federal pros cuecutor l join us to discuss the opioid
epidemic. then representative joyce bady of ohio, congressional black caucus member, will talk about the ohio primary results, exit polls and what it all means for the general election. be sure to watch c-span's washington journal 7:00 a.m. wednesday morning. join the discuss. tonight on c-span3, president obama, house speaker paul ryan and irish prime minister speak at a lunch at the capital. then a senate hearing on u.s. visa security and the vetting of immigrants and refugees. that's followed by a discussion on medical research onproposal congress reclaim some of the powers they have transferred to the executive branch. president obama, house speaker paul rya