Mr. REID. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that at 3 p.m., Monday, April 26, the Senate proceed to the consideration of Calendar No. 349, S. 3217, a bill to promote the financial stability of the United States by improving accountability and transparency.
Mr. McCONNELL. Reserving the right to object, and I will object, here we go again. The majority leader is once again moving to a bill, even while bipartisan discussions on the content of the bill are still underway.
Just about an hour ago, the majority leader said:
I'm not going to waste any more time of the American people while they come up with some agreement.
Well, I do not think bipartisanship is a waste of time. I do not think a bill with the legitimacy of a bipartisan agreement is a waste of time.
Is it a waste of time to ensure that the taxpayers never again bail out Wall Street firms? Is it a waste of time to ensure that the bill before us does not drive jobs overseas or dry up lending to small businesses? Is it too much to ask, should an agreement be reached, that we take the time to make sure every Member of the Senate and our constituents can actually read the bill and understand the details?
This bill potentially affects every small bank and lending institution in our country. It has serious implications for jobs and the availability of credit to spur economic growth. It has important consequences for the taxpayers, if done incorrectly.
I think Americans expect more of us. I think they expect us to take the time to do it right. I would add, my impression was that serious discussions were going on. I think they should continue. Therefore, Mr. President, I object.
Mr. REID. Thank you, Mr. President.
Here we go again. This is a bill that has been out here for a month--weeks. I think people even reading slowly would have a chance to work their way through that in a month. This Kabuki dance we have been involved in for months now--my friend, and he is my friend, the ranking member of that committee, the distinguished senior Senator from Alabama, worked with the chairman of the committee for weeks and weeks--weeks going into months--trying to come up with a deal we could move forward on. That
was no longer possible. No negotiations went on. My friend from Alabama said that is enough.
Then we get the Senator from Tennessee coming in and spending weeks with my friend, the chairman of the Banking Committee, Senator Dodd. That fell through.
We are moving to this bill because we need transparency, we need accountability, we need someone to respond to Wall Street because they have not responded to us.
This game is apparent to the American people. My friends on the other side of the aisle are betting on failure again, as they did with health care, as they have done on everything this year. They did not get--health care was not Obama's Waterloo. Maybe they want this to be his Waterloo, but it is not going to be. We are going to move forward on this piece of legislation because the American people demand it.
I have said publicly on many occasions, we need to get on this bill. Remember, we are not finalizing the bill. We are asking for the simple task we used to do easily: move to the bill. I am only asking permission to get on the bill--to get on the bill--and then start offering amendments. I am not asking everybody to approve the bill as it is written. All I am asking for is we move to the bill.
If there is an agreement reached between the ranking member and the chairman of the committee, it is easy to take care of that. There would be a substitute amendment. They would agree to it and probably it would be accepted pretty easily. So to think this is some way to bail out Wall Street firms is an absolute joke. Read the bill.
So in light of the objection, I now move to proceed. I am moving to proceed. It takes me 2 days. It takes the Senate 2 days for this to ripen. We are going to have a vote Monday. We should be on the bill today offering amendments, having opening statements on the bill. Those who think it is good, say something good about it. Those who think it needs to be improved, improve it. But, no, we are going to waste the next 4 days getting on the bill.
So in light of the objection, I now move to proceed to Calendar No. 349, S. 3217, and I send a cloture motion to the desk.
Mr. REID. Mr. President, just so the American public knows this also, if there is an agreement reached between Senators DODD and SHELBY and anyone objected to that agreement, I would have to start all over with a bill because it would be a new bill and we would have the same games being played. So if they can come to an agreement, more power to them. They will work this out as an amendment to the bill or a substitute.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed occur at 5 p.m., Monday--I will drag the vote; some people wanted it earlier, some wanted it later, and we will not close the vote until at least a quarter to 6--so that will be on Monday, April 26, at 5 p.m., and with the mandatory quorum being waived.
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I would only add, briefly, that Senator Dodd and Senator Shelby are on the floor. I would encourage them to continue to do what they have been doing, which is to try to reach an agreement. [Page: S2554]
The only place where I would disagree with my good friend, the majority leader, is I think it does make a difference which bill we turn to. Hopefully, the bill we turn to will not be a bill that came out of the committee on a party-line vote but, rather, a bill negotiated on a bipartisan basis by those who know the most about the subject: Senator Dodd, Senator Shelby, and the members of their committee.
It is still my hope we will be able to go forward on a bipartisan basis, and I look forward to hearing from Chairman Dodd and Ranking Member Shelby about the progress they make.
I yield the floor.
Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I appreciate that. I have a question. I appreciate the comments of the Senator from North Dakota, and I agree with his comments. I have to say--and I know some of my colleagues were here earlier.
Before I came to this body, I spent a career as a CEO of a business and a CEO of a State. While I have great respect for this body and the rules and traditions of this body, something seems a little strange when 15 months into a new administration, this President can't get his nominees up for a straight up-or-down vote--put the management team in place. If there is a challenge or a problem with the qualifications of the gentleman the President proposes to be the head of the Corps of Engineers,
we ought to debate that and vote him down, but he should not be held in this kind of gray secret hold or this area of abeyance. A number of my colleagues have spoken about this already. All of the freshman and sophomore Democratic Members--and I am sure we would welcome our Republican colleagues to do the same--are saying this process of putting people on hold, particularly seeking holds that have no relationship to their qualifications for the job, is wrong.
I don't know how to answer this when people around Virginia ask me: Why can't you get stuff done, and why can't these things be moved forward?
So a number of us--we may be new to the body, but just because of the very action that is being debated right now--are going to continue to press this issue. I commend the Senator from North Dakota.
Again, is the Senator from North Dakota aware of any substantive reasons this man who served our country for so long in our military should not be confirmed as the head of the Army Corps of Engineers?
Mr. DORGAN. Mr. President, I would say to the Senator from Virginia, there are no reasons with respect to this person's military service. I have not heard any reasons from the Senator from Louisiana. He is not holding up his promotion because he thinks the man is unfit or didn't earn the promotion; he is holding up the promotion because he says he is demanding other things from the Corps of Engineers.
Despite my irritation, let me say I don't dislike my colleague from Louisiana. I intensely dislike what he is doing, and I expect most informed soldiers in this country should dislike what he is doing because I believe it puts a soldier in the position of being a pawn as between the demands of a U.S. Senator and some agency.
I will go through at some point--the Senator, I know, is leaving this afternoon, and that is why I, as a matter of courtesy, told him when I would come to the floor. But at some point later when others aren't waiting, I will go through and describe the issues, responses to the issues, because the rest of the story is much more compelling than the half story given to us by the Senator from Louisiana.
The Ouachita River levees, the authorization for that Ouachita River and tributaries projects specifies that levee work is a nonfederal responsibility. Congress has not enacted a general provisional law that would supplant this nonfederal responsibility and allow the corps to correct levee damages not associated with flood events.
As much as a person--as someone here--doesn't like that answer, that is the answer. Again, my colleague is saying--if you strip away all the bark, my colleague is saying: I demand we spend more money on something that will give us less flood control. Well, look, the Senate Appropriations Committee has been confronted with that, and the Senate Appropriations Committee said: No way, we are not going to do it.
One final point, and then I will come back at some later point and the Senator from Louisiana will respond and I will respond to him and, hopefully, someday he will decide there are other ways for him to achieve the means to an end rather than use the promotion of this dedicated soldier as a pawn in this effort he is making.
This Congress has appropriated $14 billion to help the people of New Orleans and Louisiana. How do I know that? Because I chair the appropriations subcommittee that funds these things. I chair that subcommittee. I have been willing and anxious to help the people of Louisiana and New Orleans. I have been willing to do that because I saw what they were hit with: an unbelievable tragedy. I saw it. But I think it is pretty Byzantine to come to the floor and hear the relentless criticism of the Corps
of Engineers that has stood with the people of Louisiana and New Orleans, and even today is helping rebuild with that $14 billion. I think there is a time when you wear out the welcome of certainly this Senator and others who have been so quick and so anxious to help, and you wear out the welcome of agencies such as the Corps of Engineers when you suggest somehow that they are a bunch of slothful bureaucrats who can't do anything right.
I have seen people wear out their welcome, and I tell my colleagues this: This exercise in using this soldier as a pawn in this little game, trying to misread the law and the authorities of the Corps of Engineers to demand that they do what they can't do in order to satisfy one Senator, it is the wrong way to do business in this Senate.
I have not convinced my colleague to release his hold and allow, after 6 months, this soldier's career to move forward. I know this is just one. There are 100 of them on the calendar. This is one, but it is one that is unusual. It is one that is unusual because one soldier's career that has been recommended for promotion by Republicans and Democrats alike is being held up by only one person. I have not heard one other person come to this Chamber and say: I think it is a good idea to use a soldier's
promotion as a pawn to try to get what I want. There is not one other person who has done that, and I don't think there is another Senator who would do it. If there is, let's hear from them.
I will come back later. I know my colleague wishes to speak. Had he wanted me to yield, I certainly would have yielded, even though he would not yield to me. There are certain things we shouldn't do around here. Again, I don't dislike him, but I certainly dislike what he is doing because I think it is so fundamentally wrong and undermines the kinds of circumstances in which we have always evaluated the merit of promotions for soldiers who have served this country.
I yield the floor.
Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I am disappointed. I am disappointed. I am disappointed my distinguished colleague is continuing to simply blindly, in my opinion, be a fierce defender of a bureaucracy which is truly broken. Not a pawn in anything, a member of the leadership, one of the top nine officers of the leadership of this bureaucracy.
For my part, I will continue to fight to change, to fundamentally change that bureaucracy and, for starters, to have them follow the law, to have them follow their mandates, their authorizations in the WRDA bill and the other legislation I have outlined.
I have outlined the authorization clearly to the corps. I will outline it again. I have outlined these significant studies that are overdue, have never been produced, not because of the fault of anyone else, not because of the State of Louisiana. I will meet with them next week. I will continue to work on that. I invite the Senator to work on that sort of fundamental change, not just fiercely defending this, in my opinion, truly broken bureaucracy.
I will also note, as the majority leader noted, one Senator cannot kill this nomination. One Senator cannot stop this promotion. The Senate can move on it, so I invite the Senate and the majority leader to do that. It is completely within the majority leader's--his party's power to move on that and to proceed with this nomination, and certainly one Senator cannot stop that. But this one Senator will continue to fight to hold the corps' feet to the fire to make them live by their mandates, to
move forward on these critical protection issues for Louisiana.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Mr. DORGAN. Let me just quickly say I intend to work with everybody in this Chamber who comes here to work in good faith to solve problems. But in my judgment, it is an unbelievable mistake to use the promotion of soldiers as a pawn in these circumstances.
I would say that as chairman of the subcommittee that funds all of these projects and all of these issues, I have been pleased to send all of that money--$14 billion--down to Louisiana. But as I said, my friend is fast wearing out his welcome. I think my friend might want to learn the words ``thank you,'' thank you to this Chamber, thanks to the rest of the American people who said to some people who were hit with an unbelievable tragedy: You are not alone. You are not alone. This country cares
about you and is going to invest in your future. But I also think thank you to the Corps of Engineers. It is quite clear they have probably made some mistakes in all of our States. It is also clear that it would be a pretty difficult circumstance for a State or for people in any State to fight these battles without the experience and the knowledge and the capability of the Corps of Engineers.
I just think from time to time constructive criticism is in order. I think also from time to time a thank-you is in order. I also think in every case--in each and every case, the truth is in order. I will go through and in every single circumstance describe where the Senator from Louisiana has said the Corps of Engineers has the authority and has the funding, and I will show him that he is dead wrong, and I think he knows it.
But if this impasse continues, my colleague, Senator Reid, the majority leader, does have the capability to take 2 days of the Senate's time to file a cloture motion, and my expectation would be that the vote would be 99 to 1 because I don't know of one other Member of the Senate who wants to hold up the promotion of soldiers in order to meet demands that a specific Federal agency cannot possibly meet.
I yield the floor.
Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, just to close, I have said thank you many times, certainly to the American people, to these bodies in Washington representing the American people. The Senator is certainly right about that generosity and about a lot of the work of the corps.
I do disagree with the Senator in sort of lightly tripping over as a minor mistake design flaws that caused 80 percent of the catastrophic flooding of the city of New Orleans. I wouldn't think that is a minor mistake to trip over. But I will continue to work with the corps to resolve these issues, and I will go through every one of those additional 11 items I outlined because we are waiting on that critical work and on those critical reports. That is not only authorized, but it is mandated in
the 2007 WRDA bill and other bills, and we need that to move forward.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Mr. DODD. Mr. President, I note the presence of my colleague and friend from Alabama, the former chairman and now ranking member of the Banking Committee on the Senate floor, and I will be very brief. We have heard the proposal by the majority leader, the objection by the minority leader, and the announcement that there will be a filing of a cloture motion which will mature, I think, on Monday around 5 o'clock or so when a vote will occur.
Let me briefly express, first of all, my thanks to RICHARD SHELBY, my colleague from Alabama. For many months--going back more than a year, actually--we have been working together now on this. Over the last 38 or 39 months that I have been privileged to be chairman of the committee, we have sat next to each other. There have been some 42 proposals that have come out of the Banking Committee over the last 38 months, and I think 37 of them are now the law of the land.
There have been a wide range of issues, including things such as flood control, but also dealing with port securities, with risk insurance, with housing issues, with credit cards--all sorts of issues that our Banking Committee has wrestled with in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
So before another word is said, before another amendment is filed or another motion made, let me say thank you to RICHARD SHELBY and my other members of the committee for their cooperation and the work we have done together on that committee. Very few votes that have occurred have been negative votes. We had a few of them that happened; that is understandable from time to time. But, by and large, we have worked together.
I want our colleagues to know, but also I think most of us want the American public to know, that despite political differences, the fact that we come from different parts of the country doesn't separate our common determination to see to it that we put ourselves on a much more solid footing than, obviously, we were at the time this crisis emerged. We want to never again see our Nation placed in economic peril as it was over the last several years, with as many jobs and homes lost and retirements
evaporating, health care disappearing because of job loss. We have been dealing with all of the problems: small businesses collapsing, credit shutting down, capital not available for new starts and new ideas.
So we have put together a bill. Granted, it was not a bipartisan vote in committee, but as I am sure my colleague will recognize, much of what is in this bill today is different than the one I offered in November. I am not going to suggest that my friend from Alabama and others loved every dotted I and crossed t, but I believe he will acknowledge that there is a lot of cooperation represented in this bill, trying to come to some common territory so we can say to the American public: Never again
will you be asked to spend a nickel of your money to bail out a financial institution. The presumption is failure and bankruptcy. We want to wind you down in a way that doesn't jeopardize other solvent companies and the rest of our economy in the country. We want to make sure consumers get protected,
when they have a place to go--when a product they buy fails, there is a place they can go. We recently saw an automobile company where the accelerator jammed and people were put at risk. There was a recall on that product because it placed people at risk. Nothing exists today that allows for a recall of a financial product that puts you at risk. Our bill tries to do that. We try to complete an early-warning system so we can pick up economic problems before they metastasize into major issues.
There are other pieces of it as well.
We are working to come to a common understanding of how best to achieve those goals and results. My hope is, because of the magnitude of the bill, we [Page: S2556]
can get to a debate and discussion. My experience over 30 years in this Chamber is that we never get to a resolution of issues until we have to. As long as there are sort of discussion groups going on in various rooms of the Capitol and meetings that we have--that is all helpful and can help us understand
issues better, but the only way we get to a resolution of conflicting ideas, in the final analysis, is to be on the floor of this Chamber, where Members bring their ideas and we work on them together. We try to accept the good ones or modify them to make them fit into the structure. The bad ideas we try to reject when we can. But you have to be here.
Senator Shelby and I, as hard as we work, we know we don't represent 98 other people in this Chamber. Other Members who are not members of our committee or who are members of our committee certainly have every right to be heard on this bill and to express their ideas as to how we can do a better job of achieving what we are trying to achieve. But we need to get there. If we don't even have the chance to start this process, you can't ask the two of us to resolve it for everybody. It is
too much. We can try to come close and we can try to reflect the views of our respective caucuses and the American people, but don't expect us to sit there and write a complete bill to deal with an entire meltdown of the financial sector of our Nation. We can help get there. We have good ideas on how to achieve it. But we need this body to function. It cannot function as long as we are debating whether we can even get to the bill.
We have spent more than a year on this, and over a month ago we finished our work in the committee. It was voted out of committee. It wasn't a bipartisan vote, but we moved forward. Now we have a chance for this body to act on the product that came out of committee, which will be before us. Where we can get agreement and some changes, we will have a managers' amendment or a substitute or whatever procedural way necessary to try to accommodate those, reflecting the ideas of our colleagues. Others
can bring their ideas to the debate. We need to have that. That cannot occur until we are actually here doing it.
I urge my colleagues, principally, I say, on the minority side but not exclusively--I think there are those on the majority side as well--everybody can play hold-up and say: If I don't get my way and if you don't do what I want, then I will object to getting to the bill. If that is the case, who wins on this matter? Certainly not the American people, who expect a little more out of this Chamber than whether each 100 of us insists upon our own agenda. It doesn't work that way, unfortunately. This
is not an executive body. We are coequals here, even those in the leadership. We have a right to be heard.
My colleague from Arkansas, chairman of the Agriculture Committee--they marked up a bill dealing with derivatives and other matters, as they should. There is jurisdiction of that matter in their committee. We did the same. We have some jurisdiction over the subject matter. We need to harmonize the rulemaking on that subject matter.
I hope that on Monday afternoon, Senator Shelby and I will continue working with each other, as will our staffs today, tomorrow, and over the weekend, to try to come to some understanding on some of these matters. I am not going to tell you to count on the two of us to solve all of our problems. We cannot.
I ask everybody, let's get to the debate. The American people cannot tolerate us doing nothing, waiting around to see if another crisis comes and whether we can respond to it. That is unacceptable.
About 5 on Monday, we need to have the votes to go forward. The two of us will sit in our respective chairs and present our ideas and talk and discuss how these ideas can emerge, and we will invite our colleagues to come to the floor to debate, discuss, and offer their ideas, and we will try to make this an even better bill. We think we have a good one, but we also know that anybody who suggests to you that they have written the perfect piece of legislation, be wary of them. I have never seen
a perfect bill in 30 years--maybe a Mother's Day resolution or something, but aside from that, don't count on perfection to be offered here. It is anything but perfect. I hope we get to that moment.
We have had our discussions over the last week, and I will continue talking about the substance of our bill. We cannot turn into a petulant organization here that screams at each other. We need to get about the business the American people sent us here to achieve. With the relationship I have had with my friend from Alabama, I remain optimistic we will get the job done.
Legislative processes are not the most beautiful things to watch. It is what our Founders designed, what those who have come before us have been able to use to achieve some of the great successes of our Nation on many different matters.
We are now confronted with another great challenge as to whether we can step up and resolve the kinds of issues that would avoid the kind of catastrophe we almost witnessed in our Nation. That is our job. We are chosen by the citizens in our States to represent not only their interests but our fellow countrymen's interests as well.
I look forward to the vote on Monday. I hope we may not have to have it, that we can proceed to the bill and let Senator Shelby and I and the committee members and others do the work and shape a good bill.
Mr. SHELBY. Mr. President, first, I thank Senator Dodd for his leadership on the Banking Committee. I worked with him, as he said, day-in and day-out, and this is the fourth year of his chairmanship. We have achieved a lot together in a bipartisan way.
Both sides of the aisle are working together for a common goal. We share a lot of these goals. What are some of the goals?
Ending bailouts. Senator Dodd and I both believe that nothing should be too big to fail--financial institutions and, I believe, manufacturing and anything else. Nothing should be too big to fail. We are working toward that end.
Protecting consumers. We are very interested in a consumer agency. We want to balance that, while protecting the deposit insurance fund and so forth.
Regulating derivatives. Let's be honest, they played a big role--a lot of them in the closet, unknown, and so forth--in our financial debacle. Derivatives are used every day legitimately by so many of our businesses, not only in America but all over the world. So we need to regulate derivatives while protecting jobs and our economic growth. It is a common desire. Details matter here. The Presiding Officer understands that. Senator Dodd understands it very well.
As we are moving down the road in the process, we are continuing to negotiate and to do it in good faith, trying to reach a common goal. Who knows what will happen between now and Monday or next Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday. I hope it is a bipartisan bill and that we can gather a lot of people on both sides of the aisle to support it. I think that is one of our goals.
What is the main goal? To do it right. Don't just do it, but do it right. Will it be perfect? Nothing is perfect, as Senator Dodd talks about. But if we work in good faith, as we are trying to while the process is going forward, I think we can make some real progress toward the common goal--to have a strong financial system that is well regulated, to have derivatives that are brought out of the closet to work, and to have a consumer agency that will work for all of us. There are many
other things, but that is my goal, and I share that with Senator Dodd.
I yield the floor.
Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I commend the Senator from New Mexico for drawing our attention to Earth Day. It has certainly become a national, if not global, observance that calls to mind the relationship we have with this Earth that we live on and our responsibilities. We are now considering legislation involving carbon and the impact of carbon on the environment and on this planet. There are some differences of opinions on the floor of the Senate about whether this is a challenge and, if it is,
how to address it.
Early next week, three of our colleagues are going to step forward with a proposal. Senator John Kerry has spearheaded an effort, working with Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator Bingaman, to come forward with an idea of clean energy. He will be joined by Senator Joseph Lieberman and Senator Lindsey Graham. It is a bipartisan effort.
What they are seeking to do in this bill is certainly consistent with the goals of Earth Day and our national goals: First, to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, to encourage domestic energy sources that are renewable and sustainable so we can build on our future; second, to create jobs, which is our highest priority in this Congress with the recession we face. We understand the reality that countries such as China see a great potential for building solar panels and wind turbines and a variety
of different forms of technology to promote energy efficiency and to promote the kind of clean energy approach that we should have as part of our future. Third, of course, is that we want to do something about pollution--carbon emissions, the impact they have on our lungs and on our atmosphere.
I think this is a noble agenda. It is an ambitious agenda because it engages the entire American economy. We want to be sure we do the right thing, the responsible thing, when it comes to clean energy and our future but not at the cost of economic growth and development. I happen to believe a case can be made that absent our effort, we are going to fall behind in the development of industries that have great potential.
There was a time that the two words, ``Silicon Valley,'' sent a message not only to America but to the world that we were leading in the information technology development arena. I cannot even guess at the number of jobs, businesses, and wealth that was created by that information technology leadership in the United States. Now we need to seize that leadership again.
It is frustrating, if not infuriating, to think that 50 years ago, Bell Labs in the United States developed solar panels. Now, of the 10 largest solar panel producers in the world, not one is in the United States. That has to change. It is something of a cliche, but I say it in my speeches and it resonates with people, that I would like to go into more stores in America and find ``Made in America'' stamped on those products.
When it comes to this type of technology--solar panels, wind turbines--there is no reason we can't build these in the United States so that we are achieving many goals at once: a clean energy alternative, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, creating good-paying jobs in industries with a future, and in the process doing the right thing for Mother Earth. Earth Day is a time to reflect on that.
I have often spent Earth Day back in Illinois, downstate with farmers, and I can't think of any class of people in America closer to Mother Nature every single day of their lives. Most of them are not all that comfortable with these so-called environmentalists. They think they are too theoretical and not grounded in the reality that farmers face in their lives. But I have tried to draw them together in conversation, and almost inevitably they come up with some common approaches.
Whether we are talking about soil and water conservation or reduction of the use of chemicals on the land, all of these things are consistent with both environmental goals and profitable farming. So I look at our stewards of the agricultural scene in America as part of our environmental community who can play a critical role in charting a course in making policies for the future.
Mr. President, I hope that soon we will be moving to financial regulatory reform. It is a Washington term known as Wall Street reform, or basically trying to clean up the mess that was created by this last recession. This is a bill that is controversial. It has been worked on by many committees in the Senate. Senator Blanche Lincoln in the Agricultural Committee took on a [Page: S2558]
big part of it. Most people are surprised to think of Wall Street and
the Ag Committee at the same time, but those of us from Chicago are not. We have a futures market which has been in place for almost a century, starting with the Chicago Board of Trade, and it deals in futures--derivatives, if you will--that are based on agricultural commodities
and currency and interest rates and a certain index. That operation in Chicago is governed and regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The jurisdiction of that, as it started with agricultural products, has been relegated to the Agriculture Committee.
Senator Lincoln met this week and did an outstanding job of reporting a bill on that section of the bill related to derivatives and futures regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. She was successful in reporting the bill from her committee, with the support of Senator Grassley of Iowa making it a bipartisan effort. Another Republican Senator expressed an interest in helping as well. So I give her high praise in this charged political atmosphere in which we work
in this body. It says a lot for her that she can put together this type of bipartisan coalition.
At the same time, Senator Dodd, in the Banking Committee, has been working on a bill as well, trying to bring the two together on the Senate floor and have a joint effort to deal with this issue.
Now, why are we doing this? Well, we are doing this for very obvious reasons. We know that leading into this recession, Wall Street and the big banks in America got away with murder. At the end of the day, the taxpayers of this country were called on to rescue these financial institutions from their own perfidy.
When we look at the things they did in the name of profit, it turned out to be senseless greed. At the end of the day, many people suffered. As a result of this recession, $17 trillion was extracted from the American economy--$17 trillion in losses. Mr. President, $17 trillion is more than the annual gross national product of the United States. So if we took the sum total value of all the goods and services produced in our country in 1 year, we lost that much value in this recession. It was the
hardest hit the American economy has taken since the Great Depression in 1929.
Of course, a lot of it had to do with bad decisions. Some individual families and businesses made bad decisions. They borrowed money when they shouldn't have. They got in too deeply, bought homes that were too expensive. They might have been lured into it, but they made bad decisions. The government made some bad decisions. We thought, as a general principle, encouraging home ownership was great for our country; that the more people who own a home, the more likely they will make that home a good
investment for themselves, and the more likely they will be engaged in their neighborhood and their churches and in their communities, and the stronger we will be as a nation. That was the starting point. So we opened up opportunities for home ownership, reaching down to levels that had not been tried before, and, unfortunately, that went too far.
The private sector was to blame. When we look at so many people who were lured into mortgages and borrowing far beyond their means, we see there was also a lot of deception going on. People were told they could get a mortgage and make an easy monthly payment and weren't told their mortgage would explode right in front of them, as the subprime mortgage, in a matter of months or years, would have a monthly payment far beyond their means. They weren't told there was a provision in that mortgage
which had a prepayment penalty that stopped them from refinancing, and that they were stuck with high interest rates from which they couldn't escape. They weren't told that just making an oral representation about their income was not nearly enough; that they needed to produce documentation about their real net worth.
These so-called no-doc closings, which became rampant in some areas, led to terrible decisions, encouraged by greedy speculators in the financial industries. So the net result was that the bottom fell out of the real estate market and $17 trillion in value was lost in the American economy. Most of us felt it in our 401(k)s, in our savings accounts, and in our retirement plans. We saw it with businesses that lost their leases and lost their businesses and had to lay off their employees.
The President was faced with 800,000 unemployed Americans in his first month in office. That is an enormous number of people. The total today is about 8 million
actively unemployed, with 6 million long-term unemployed. It is huge, and it affects every single State. In my State, there is over 11 percent unemployment. In Rockford, IL, it is close to 20, and Danville about the same. I have visited those communities, and I can see the pain and the sacrifices that are being made by people who have lost their jobs.
So the President came in and asked us to pass a stimulus bill, which we did. It was some $787 billion that was injected into the economy in an effort to get it moving again, providing tax breaks for 95 percent of working families and middle-income families across America. It was a safety net for those who had lost their jobs, not only in unemployment benefits but also COBRA or health insurance benefits, and finally an investment in projects such as highway construction, which would create good-paying
American jobs right now and produce something that would have value for our economic growth in the years to come.
At the same time, though, as we go through this painful process of coming out of this recession, we have to make changes in Wall Street and the financial institutions to guarantee that we would not face this again. That means taking an honest look at some of the practices that are taking place today, and that are legal today. We got into this thinking--and I was part of it; most of us were--that if we had an expanding financial sector in the United States, it would expand jobs and opportunities
and business growth and global competition.
Unfortunately, it went overboard. Many financial institutions, which are now being called on the carpet, took the authority given them by the Federal Government to an extreme. That is what we are trying to change. We want to make sure there is some accountability on Wall Street and with the big banks, so that we understand what they are doing and that their investments don't end up being a gamble where people can lose their life savings or investments.
We want to make sure as well that we empower consumers in the United States. This bill that is going to come before us has the strongest consumer financial protection ever enacted into law in the United States. We are going to create an agency which is going to protect and empower consumers--protect them from the tricks and traps and shadowy agreements and fine print stuck in mortgages and credit card statements, in student loans, in retirement plans, and all of the things that people engage
in daily in their lives where one sentence stuck in a legal document can end up being someone's downfall.
We want to protect consumers from that and empower consumers to make the right decisions, so that there will be clarity in these legal documents that can bring a person's financial empire to ruin. That kind of clarity and plain English is going to be guaranteed by a Federal group that is going to keep an eye on the financial industries.
Some of these large banks are fighting us. They don't want to see this happen. They do not believe there should be this kind of consumer financial protection. But we are going to fight to make that happen so consumers across America have a fighting chance when they enter into agreements, so that they will have a legal document they can understand and one that they can work with, and then they will have an agency to back them up.
Currently, we have only had one Republican Senator vote for this kind of reform--Senator Grassley of Iowa voted for it in the Agriculture Committee version that came out of Senator Lincoln's committee. But on the Banking Committee, not a single Republican would vote for it. I hope they will have a change of heart.
I understand there are negotiations underway, but I hope the negotiations don't water down the basic agreement in this bill. We need a strong bill. We need a bill that meets the test of what [Page: S2559]
we have been through as a nation. After all of the suffering that has taken place--the businesses lost, the savings lost, the jobs lost--for goodness' sake, let's not come up with some halfhearted effort. Let's stand up to the Wall Street lobbyists who are going
to try to water down this bill and tell them no. We are going to call for a vote on a bill that has some teeth in it, something worth voting for, something that will guarantee that we will never go through this kind of recession ever again in our economy.
I think we owe that to the American people, and I hope that next week, come Monday afternoon at 5 o'clock, when this Senate convenes for a vote, I hope we have a strong bipartisan vote to move forward on this whole idea of Wall Street reform.
I believe that is in the best interests of our country. I commend Senator Dodd and Senator Lincoln. I urge them to come together, bring their two bills together, and to come up with an agreement that can lead us into this kind of happy day where we have this kind of legislation.
Mr. President, I thank you for allowing me to speak in morning business, and if there is no one seeking recognition, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
Mr. CORKER. Madam President, I rise today to address the financial regulation proposal that is before us right now. I wish to talk about some of the conversations that are taking place about our status. No. 1, I think everybody in this body knows that people on both sides of the aisle would like for us to come to an agreement that makes our country's financial system stronger, protects consumers, and tries to insure us against the kinds of things we have all witnessed over the last couple of
years. I think on both sides of the aisle there is tremendous desire to see that happen.
There has also been some discussions, though, about the process leading up to this. I know the Senator from Nevada has talked a little bit about the fact, for instance, that they negotiated with Senator Corker for 30 days. This bill is 1,400 pages long, and I think by all accounts most people felt as though we were almost completed--the analogy that is being used is, we were on the 5-yard line and the lights went out. Somehow or another, taking 30 days to try to discuss a 1,400-page
bill and get it right has been discussed as taking a long time. I don't consider that a long time at all.
As a matter of fact, I think it is remarkable the kind of progress we have made when we actually sat down as two parties trying to reach a compromise on something that is as important to the American people. So I wish to say that a lot of us on this side of the aisle have dealt in good faith, have actually gone out on a limb to deal in good faith--as a matter of fact, have broken protocol, in some cases, to try to deal in good faith.
When statements are made that if you try to negotiate and you get to the 5-yard line but for some reason the White House and people on the other side of the aisle decide to go on because they are losing some Democrats--which, by the way, I would assume in a bipartisan negotiation you lose some Republicans, you lose some Democrats, because you have reached a middle-of-the-road piece of legislation. So to categorize that as making that much progress and then: Well, we are losing a few Democrats
so we have to stop and go our own way--which has been publicly stated by my friends on the other side of the aisle as to what happened--to talk about that as if that is a problem on our side of the aisle creates a little bad faith, just to be candid. I mean,
for the next person who comes along and tries to work something out with my friends on the other side of the aisle and this happens, I think it is going to discourage that from happening in the future. So I hope we will tone down those kinds of things.
Then they talked about the fact that we went through the committee with this bill. At the time it was only a 1,336-page bill. It has expanded since that time. But we voted this bill out of committee in 21 minutes with no amendments. This was not a real vote. The understanding we all had was that the makeup of the Banking Committee was such that it would be difficult to get to a bipartisan agreement there and that we might harden ourselves against each other by offering amendments. I filed 60
amendments myself, none of which were messaging amendments. They were all technical amendments, and others, to try to fix this bill. But for some reason, the rules changed and we weren't going to be able to do that in committee, and we didn't want to harden ourselves against each other, and we were going to fix it before it came to the Senate floor.
Now we file a motion to proceed to the bill without it being fixed before it comes to the floor. It just seems as though there is this little shell game where we keep moving the goalpost to such a point where, again, we are going to end up with a situation where a bill comes to the floor, but there has been no bipartisan consensus.
Now, I will say this: I do think Chairman Dodd has tried to do some bipartisan things, and I know I personally have had an effect on this bill. I thank him for that. I thank Senator Warner for the work we have been able to do together, and Senator Reed and Senator Gregg and others. But the fact is, we haven't reached a bipartisan agreement. So I hope some of the statements that are being made about where we are and how we got here and the revisionist history
that is being created to sort of make one side of the aisle look worse than the other side of the aisle will cease. It doesn't do any good.
The fact is, there are people on both sides of the aisle who want to see financial regulation take place. This whole notion that if you are against this bill as written, you are for Wall Street, and if you are for this bill as written, you are against Wall Street, is an unbelievably silly argument. The fact is, I think everybody in this country knows when major regulation takes place, the big guys always do best. They have the resources to deal with compliance and all of those kinds of things.
As a matter of fact, I doubt there are many people on either side of the aisle who are hearing much from Wall Street right now. Who they are hearing from is their community bankers who are concerned about a consumer protection agency that has no bounds and has no veto.
All of a sudden, it is used potentially as a social justice mechanism in this country. They are concerned about that. They are probably hearing from manufacturers who actually make things and buy hedges or derivatives to make sure their material prices can be hedged again down the road so they don't lose money fulfilling a contract.
When we talk about that either you are for this bill and against Wall Street or vice versa, that is just a low-level argument. It has nothing to do with the facts. The fact, from where I sit, is we have a lot of people in this body who want a good bill. It seems to me the best way to get to a good bill is to at least get the template of the bill agreed to in advance, to get the bill agreed to as it relates to orderly liquidation.
I think we all want to make sure that if a large organization or any organization fails, it fails, but certainly with these highly complex bank holding companies, we want to see that happen. Make sure we deal with revenues in such a way that most of the trades go through a clearinghouse, so at the end of the day, people who are making money bad, make money good so we don't have an AIG-type situation again. Yet we have an appropriate end-user exclusion for people using these derivatives to actually
make their businesses safer. We want to make sure we have appropriate consumer protection. We want to make sure that is done in balance; that a consumer protection agency doesn't undermine the safety and soundness piece; that those people are making sure that our banks and financial institutions
are sound; that people who do business with them know they are going to be sound; and [Page: S2563]
that we don't have a consumer protection agency undermining that by trying to, again, use financial mechanisms as a way of creating social justice in this country.
Those are three big titles. It seems to me, if we can get agreement there, before the bill comes to the floor, then we can then do all kinds of amendments on the floor. I think there are a lot of good ideas that my friends on the other side have. I think there are a lot of good ideas that would come from this side of the aisle. It seems to me that the best way to have a great debate is to start with a template that is bipartisan and then let people change it in ways they see fit. We can vote
on those. To me, that is the best way to go.
I hope that instead of the tremendous interference that is taking place at the White House--I have never seen such involvement in what appears to be the actual drafting of legislation, sending it straight to a committee, and it being voted out. I have never seen such involvement. I hope we can tone that down, that we can tone our rhetoric down as far as trying to blame the other side for how we ended up in this position, when there are a lot of people on both sides who have exercised good faith
in trying to get here. It just pushes people apart when these realignment of history discussions take place, when that is not what has happened.
Let's give Chairman Dodd and Ranking Member Shelby some time to work through these issues. That is what needs to happen. They and their staffs need to finish working through these issues, with input from other Members, and then let's have a great debate. I know we have a weekend coming up and the floor will shut down in the next 24 hours or so. I hope the staffs and these two Members will continue to work through the weekend and try to get this bill right. I hope we will quit
throwing accusations back and forth and that we will cool down the rhetoric, and I hope we have an opportunity to begin again with a bipartisan template that we can amend and then create some great legislation for this country.
I yield the floor.