|10:04 AM EDT||
Jeff Sessions, R-AL
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I thank my colleague for talking about the energy situation and the price of gasoline. I have traveled my State hard. I know Senator Enzi knows his State like the back of his hand. He goes to every place in it repeatedly and talks to average people. They are hurting.
Look at the numbers. In 1 year, over the last year, the average family drives 24,000 miles a year. The average family [Page: S6515]
is paying $105 a month more for gasoline for their automobiles than the previous year. You go back over, since 2003, it is $217. That is a new expense they never had before, and 60 percent of that money is sent abroad to purchase oil that we utilize because 60 percent of our fuel comes from abroad. It totals $500 to $700 billion in a
wealth transfer each year now. It is unbelievable. T. Boone Pickens said it is the greatest wealth transfer in the history of the world and it is adversely affecting our economy, not just the fact that the family has less money now to take care of other needs. It has to go to gasoline so people can commute to work, in large part, I would submit, by the failure of this Congress to act.
I have been speaking on these issues ever since I came here. I have been pointing out the need for increased production consistently. We produce off my coast in Alabama substantial amounts, but 85 percent of our offshore production is now blocked.
We need to do this. We are talking about $105 more a month out of the family budget, so they can't purchase items with this money. It is rippling through the economy. It is not a ripple; it really is a tsunami.
Let me point out some of the things in recent magazines and recent newspaper articles. Here from the New York Times yesterday:
High fuel costs lead AirTran to cut 480 jobs. AirTran announced it would eliminate 480 pilot and flight attendants' jobs, joining a growing list
of airlines that have cut their workforces in the face of high fuel prices.
The cost of jet fuel has risen 92 percent this year, which is almost double in 1 year.
Here is the New York Times of July 8:
Markets decline even as oil pulls back a little bit.
The price dropped just a little.
Wall Street, which has been hurtling stocks lower for the past few weeks, remains fearful that consumers are trimming their spending to pay for gasoline. With consumer spending accounting for more than two-thirds of [U.S.] economic activity, a pullback would create big ripples.
Boy, I tell you, they are reducing spending; $105 less a month they have now to spend on other items because they are having to spend on it gasoline.
Here is the Wall Street Journal the day before yesterday:
Stock Drop Spooks Currency Investors: Oil Prices Still Key.
..... Janet Yellen [Federal Reserve Bank member], who made surprisingly worrisome comments about inflation.
``The continuing rise in oil and commodities has certainly raised the inflation risk.''
It is just every day. Does anybody not understand this? I have to tell you, I have to say, and I have spoken about this several times, I am utterly disappointed in my Democratic colleagues for having no plan whatsoever to deal with this problem. It is just not a plan. I am willing to discuss how we can work together. I am not wedded to every single issue, I would say. I am willing to consider anything that will work. But I will tell you that the Democratic leader made a speech down here, and
they offered a policy that proposes these things:
Tax the oil companies; that would make us feel better. It might even be a good policy to raise revenue, perhaps. But it is not going to increase oil production to tax the people who do it. When you tax something, you get less of it. People cannot pass a law to repeal the law of supply and demand. You tax it, you will get less of it.
No. 2, they want to prosecute, pass a law to empower the FTC to prosecute stations for price gouging. We already have a law that allows the FTC to do that. They say the gas stations are not prosecuting. They want to go prosecuting after speculators. Speculators are able to operate and be successful. I don't defend them. They are out to make a buck any way they can. They are able to do that because we have a demand for oil that is greater than supply. I think it is 86 million barrels of oil demand
a day at this point and 85 supply. So they are able to maneuver in that thing and play this game and make themselves some extra money. But if we got the supply up and our demand down, they wouldn't be able to do this. They couldn't do it when we had $10-a-barrel oil a decade or so ago.
They want to sue OPEC. OPEC, what do they do? OPEC meets to decide the amount of oil they want to produce essentially, and that creates the shortages that are driving up the price. Eighty percent-plus of the oil in the world today is not held by oil companies. It is held by nation states, many of them hostile to the United States. OPEC meets to set the price by controlling the supply. They are reducing and not producing the oil that they could if this was a real free market. They are manipulating
the market. OPEC meets to decide how much they are going to tax the consumers of the world and, in particular, how much they are going to tax us.
I have to tell you, it is a dramatic thing that is happening. I am told that it costs less than $10 a barrel to produce oil from the sands of Saudi Arabia. Yet they are selling it for $140 a barrel. This is the kind of wealth transfer that is damaging our economy. It is hurting this Nation. It is something we have to confront with real policies that will work, and there are some.
I happened to catch Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, on one of the morning talk shows not long ago. They were dealing with this question of Senator Obama and many of our colleagues here who say: Don't drill in Alaska; it might take 10 years. It wouldn't take quite that long, but they say 10 years. You shouldn't drill off the coast; that will take 10 years. Really, drilling off the coast, you begin to get production. They drill off my coast in Alabama right now, but there are other areas
with lots of reserves. It would take 3 years, 5 years to get production.
This is what Mr. Welch said. He said: It is amazing to me that a person who aspires to be the President of the United States would say he is not going to take a policy today that won't have an impact for 5 years. Think about it. He went on to say: A President should be thinking 5, 15, 30 years down the road. We need to be doing the things that serve our long-term national interest. Just because it would take some time to have this go forward, we should not delay taking action.
The matter is pretty serious. A Wall Street Journal article by Gerald Seib, executive editor, notes that there are three problems with the high prices of oil.
One is that, of course, it impacts the family budget. The second is that the high prices weaken our Nation's economic independence because we owe so much money for it. Thirdly, the money is enriching countries, many of which are hostile to the United States.
So I think we are at a point in time when we need to get together, Republicans and Democrats, and recognize that we face a problem that challenges our family budgets, that we have, in effect, taxed the American people, or allowed them to be taxed, by over $100 more a month in 1 year alone, that we can make a difference and bring those prices down--certainly stop the continuing increase. But we have to do something. There are things we can do.
I will say, as a person who has been able, a few times, to go fishing on the gulf coast, we go out and fish under oil rigs because that is a good place to fish, and it is clean and there is no oil out on the water. They are very careful about that.
We have approximately 51 billion barrels or more of recoverable reserves in the Gulf of Mexico. That is a lot. We use, as a nation, 5 billion barrels a year, and 3 billion of that is imported. If you replaced that 3 billion, that would be 17 years right there just from offshore production in the Gulf of Mexico. We have 85 percent of our reserves still blocked. We have had production that is still being effective off the coast of California before that was blocked. None has been expanded since,
in decades, and none, really, off the Atlantic coast. But there are reserves out there. States such as Virginia are talking about maybe that would be a good way to produce additional oil and serve the national interest.
We have the opportunity to produce oil from shale. There are 1.8 trillion barrels of oil in shale rock. Perhaps 800 billion of that is recoverable, experts tell us. We are using 5 billion a year, so that is 100 years or more from shale rock. I am told they can produce that at less than the current world price, keeping wealth at home, producing our energy at home, not sending that abroad.
I will tell you, one of the greatest potential breakthroughs that could help us with global warming emissions and [Page: S6516]
other areas is hybrid automobiles, particularly a plug-in hybrid. I strongly believe we should--my time is up.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have 1 additional moment.
|10:17 AM EDT||
Jeff Sessions, R-AL
Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I will conclude by saying that nuclear power produces no emissions into the air. We need to expand it. We are at 20 percent now in our Nation. We have not built a plant in 30 years. France has 80 percent. We could plug in our cars at night, charge those batteries with clean nuclear electricity, and run back and forth to work. That is within our grasp right now.
Those are the kinds of things we need to be talking about: expanding wind, expanding biofuels, expanding the production of our existing resources, keeping American wealth at home, ending this incredible transfer of wealth.
I thank the Chair and yield the floor.
|10:18 AM EDT||
John Cornyn, R-TX
Mr. CORNYN. Thank you, Mr. President.
Mr. President, I, too, want to talk about high gasoline prices, but I want to talk about other unfinished business this Senate has not taken care of. Fortunately, we do have one positive development; that is, yesterday we passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act--after 145 days had lapsed. So that is a good thing. But we have unfinished work to do.
For example, the Colombian Free Trade Agreement--it has been 597 days that our American farmers and manufacturers have been disadvantaged by tariffs on goods sold here in America. For my State of Texas, there is $2.3 billion a year that is charged in tariffs for our exports when they are imported into Colombia, when Colombian goods bear no similar tariff when their goods are imported into the United States.
Then there is the matter of judicial nominees waiting for a vote--some as long as 742 days.
Then, finally, on the matter of gasoline prices, it was about 808 days ago when Speaker Pelosi said that if she and other Democrats were put in charge, they would come up with a commonsense plan for bringing down the price of gasoline at the pump. Well, that was when gasoline was about $2.33 a gallon. Now gasoline averages $4.10 a gallon, and we are still waiting for that commonsense plan to bring down the price of gasoline at the pump.
Increasingly, Americans are squeezed by the high cost of gasoline. Of course, it is driving up everything from food prices to competing with people's ability to pay for their housing, their health care, transportation, and, obviously, the tax bite, where State and local and Federal taxes take up a huge amount. About 111 days of income is used just to pay for that tax burden.
But what we need to do, I firmly believe, is to find more domestic energy as we use less. What do I mean by that? By using less, we need to conserve, we need to be more efficient. America consumes about 20 percent of the world's oil supply, and unfortunately, about 60 percent of that we import from foreign sources. We are literally held hostage by groups such as OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, countries such as Venezuela and Hugo Chavez and others that are charging us
about $140 a barrel for oil. Of course, that oil is used to make gasoline at refineries.
But my constituents in Texas are very worried about the failure of Congress to act by removing the impediments or the moratoria on developing what is about 85 percent of our natural resources here at home. That is what I mean by finding more while we use less.
For example, Debra, from Lovelady, TX--a town of roughly 600 people, just a ``Texas mile'' north of Houston--recently wrote me this letter. She said:
I am a school teacher in a small rural East Texas school, so my income is very limited. I drive almost 30 miles one way to work each day as do many of my family and neighbors. We have chosen to stay in small towns for the ``everyone is family'' feeling they still give, but it makes it harder to live with the cost of everything rising.
The rising price of gasoline is limiting everything I do. I will not make a trip to town unless it is for my monthly shopping needs or to go to church. There will be no summer trips for me this year as I do not see a way to afford driving anywhere.
I know there are vast resources America could tap into. ..... Please look into exploring the energy resources we already have in America.
Well, I believe Debra speaks for a lot of people in this country now as they see their prices go up, as it is driving commodity prices up, such as food costs. They are finding it harder and harder to make it, even if they do have a job, even if they have an income.
I believe it is past time for Congress to respond by removing the impediments to domestic production. That is why I cosponsored the Gas Price Reduction Act of 2008. That act can be summed up, as this chart says: Find more and use less. It opens up offshore and shale oil deposits for exploration so America's energy producers can gain access to Federal lands. This also will create jobs right here in America, which is something I would think we would want to do. In a time when we are talking about
economic stimulus, about concern for the economy, don't we want to create more jobs here in America rather than having those jobs created in places such as Saudi Arabia or Mexico or Canada or Venezuela?
At the same time, this bill increases research and development initiatives and for battery-operated plug-in hybrid technology. I think it is hard for many of my constituents in Texas, with the long distances they have to drive, to imagine a day when they will be driving a battery-operated hybrid car, but I do predict the day is coming, and companies such as General Motors and other car manufacturers, in 2010, will begin selling these plug-in hybrid cars that you can literally plug into a wall
socket at night and recharge the battery and then drive about 40 miles on that battery before you have to get a generator to recharge the battery to provide you additional range. This is in our future. Right now we have about 240 million cars on the road,
and the average age of those cars is about 9 years. So obviously it is going to take a long time--about a decade--before we can transition from the kinds of gas guzzlers and cars that we drive now to something that provides an additional alternative.
I think we are beginning to see some cracks in the intransigence of many in Congress to preventing additional domestic production. I know there are a number of Senators, a fabled group called the Group of 10, the Gang of 10--5 Republicans, 5 Democrats--who are meeting to try to come up with a bipartisan alternative. I applaud that effort. It is really important because, as we all know, nothing happens around here unless it is on a bipartisan basis. I think it is very important, as I saw the Democratic
whip say that he was not opposed to more exploration and production.
I would invite those who are worried about exploration and production here in America to fly into DFW Airport where you can see gas wells being drilled into the Barnett shale right there from your airplane as you land or as you take off. It is being done using modern drilling technology which is compatible with the safety and security of the neighbors as well as a good environment.
We need to act in a bipartisan fashion on real energy solutions--a combination of conservation and energy production. It will be good for America's economy and our energy policy, as well as our national security. Find more, use less.
|10:36 AM EDT||
Richard C. Shelby, R-AL
Mr. SHELBY. Mr. President, we are nearing the end of a long debate in the Senate dealing with what some people call the housing bill, but as we know, it is more than housing. One of the big titles in it deals with the reform of the government-sponsored enterprises--GSEs commonly known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as the Federal Home Loan Bank Board.
We know that we are in a housing crisis in this country. We have a lot more houses than we probably need right now, and we have a lot of people who are going to be facing foreclosure. So, working together with Senator Dodd and our staffs, we have tried to come up with a plan to give thousands of people an opportunity for some relief. It is not a Government bailout. It is not taxpayers' money. It gives them an opportunity--assuming a lender is about to foreclose on someone--to get together
with someone else who has borrowed money and say: Look, if you can get this refinanced through the FHA modernization plan, if we can do that and we can cut down on the value of the mortgage--take a haircut, so to speak--this is better than a foreclosure.
Lenders know the worst thing in the world for them is foreclosure. Borrowers know that too, because it is a dangerous game people play. Going back to the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac situation, we know they play a huge role--a central role--in our housing, but we also know that together they owe a little over $5 trillion; $5 trillion in debt, and they are thinly capitalized because they are government-sponsored enterprises. They have the implicit guarantee of the taxpayer--the U.S. Government,
basically. I have no reason to believe we would let them go under because there is a lot at stake. The way to keep them from getting in worse financial shape is to create a strong regulator that will monitor them closer than they have been in the past to make sure they have adequate capital.
With Senator Dodd's 28 years and my 22 years on the Banking Committee, we have 50 years. In our combined 50 years on the Banking Committee, we have seen financial debacles. We have seen good times and bad times. What we are trying to do is prevent as many headaches and hardships as we can, not only to homeowners but ultimately to the American people by reforming GSEs. I hope this is a big first step today.
I wish to take a minute to commend my colleague, Senator Dodd, chairman [Page: S6519]
of the Banking Committee. As I enjoyed my 4 years serving as chairman, I also enjoy working with Senator Dodd and his staff. I wish to commend his staff as well as my staff, our Republican staff on the Banking Committee, including Bill Duhnke, Mark Oesterle and others, for all the work they have done here, night and day, and it is not over yet.
I yield the floor.
|10:40 AM EDT||
Chris Dodd, D-CT
Mr. DODD. Mr. President, first let me thank my colleague from Alabama, Senator Shelby. He makes it sound like Methuselah this morning referring to those years we have served together in the Senate, combined years of service. I have been a member of the Banking Committee since my first day as a Member of this body in January of 1981. I have served under and with a lot of different people on that committee, going back to Bill Proxmire of Wisconsin, who was the ranking Democrat in those
days; Jake Garn, who was the chairman of the Banking Committee in 1981, the Senator from Utah. Over the years, Senator Riegle, Phil Gramm, and Paul Sarbanes, of course, chaired the committee, as well as, of course, Senator Shelby.
This is an important moment for this body. We have a severe housing crisis in the country. I don't need to keep repeating that. All Members recognize it. When we go home and talk to our constituents, as we did over the last week or so, we see that this problem is not going away. We were hoping that somehow the market would be taking care of all of this and by now we would be seeing that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, but the only light we see is the light of a train coming. Unless
we act promptly, we are looking at a situation that will only get worse.
Our legislation is not the salvation of every problem. I wish to make clear to my colleagues that what Senator Shelby and I and the other 19 members of our committee have done is to fashion some proposals that we think will make a significant contribution to the issue, maybe the most important one being a sense of optimism and confidence that this Congress of ours, despite the narrow margins that split us as two parties in this body, can actually work together to get something done.
There is a growing fear in the country--in fact, more than growing--that we are incapable of doing much here; that we can't seem to get much done because of the partisan divide. This bill argues strenuously against that conclusion. By a vote of 19 to 2, this committee marked up this piece of legislation.
We have now been on the Senate floor debating this because of the very difficult parliamentary situation we are presented with as a result of what the House of Representatives sent us, so we have spent this much time on this legislation. However, I think we have a very good product reflected by the votes that have occurred over the last several weeks. I think the lowest vote total on any single proposal that has been either offered or suggested has been something like 77 votes, showing that an
overwhelming majority of people are supporting this committee product, and we appreciate that as members of the Banking Committee.
So this action is coming none too soon. Today the RealtyTrac reported that over 250,000 families went into foreclosure in the month of June. That is a 53-percent increase over last year. We all throw these statistics around rather easily in this Chamber, but numbers, while staggering, are faceless and nameless. Behind every one of these numbers, that 250,000, that 53-percent increase, is a mother, is a father, is a family, and children whose lives have been unalterably changed for the worse because
they are going to lose their home. They are going to lose their home.
Just imagine, if you will, those who have not been in that situation, what it would be like to wake up this morning and know that you have a foreclosure notice on your home, that you can't meet your obligations and you have to face your children, you have to face your spouse, you have to face your coworkers, and you have to find some other place to live. Mr. President, 250,000 people went through that in the month of June, 1,500,000 over the last year, and we are still here debating this bill
and whether we can do anything to make a difference in people's lives.
What is happening today is a tragedy, a significant tragedy for these people, for their neighbors, for their communities, and for our country. The cover story in this week's issue of Business Week is entitled ``The Home Price Abyss: Why the Threat of a Free Fall is Growing.'' I think the article sums up very well the threat we are trying to address with this legislation.
Let me quote from it:
The risk to the financial system and the economy is that the price drop, which is already horrifying, will start feeding on itself.
It goes on to say:
When home values fall low enough, hard-pressed homeowners become less able or less willing to keep paying their mortgages. That forces lenders to repossess homes and then dump them back on the market at fire sale prices, which depresses further the prices in those neighborhoods and leads to even more foreclosures.
When we consider the role home equity has played in supporting consumer spending, we can see that this vicious cycle can create a disaster. We have already had hundreds of thousands of job losses and the like. I think we all recognize we have a responsibility to act.
Today, we have an opportunity to pass the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, which will help us begin to address this crisis and the larger economic turmoil. I wish to add that we would have liked to have considered other amendments. Other colleagues had ideas to add to this bill. Because of a handful of Members who don't want any more consideration, we are forced into this situation. A number of amendments had been worked out between Democrats and Republicans, but we cannot even offer
those. That is the situation. I regret that because there were some good ideas, frankly, that could have been added to the bill as it leaves here. But that is the situation. Candidly, we cannot wait longer, having gone weeks going through the parliamentary rigmarole on the floor of the Senate.
I will sum up again the legislation we are about to pass and send on to the House. The bill establishes the Hopeful Homeowners Act to assist at least 400,000, maybe 500,000 families to keep their homes and stabilize their neighborhoods. It does so after asking both lenders and borrowers to make financial sacrifices. It does so at absolutely no cost to the taxpayer. It creates a new class of regulation for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
You can look in the Wall Street Journal of this morning if you doubt whether we should act or we can wait longer. The headline is: ``U.S. Mulls Future of Fannie, Freddie.'' If you think we ought to wait longer to try to get something better out of the bill, consider what we may have happen to these GSEs, which are critical to providing stability in the housing market. The world-class regulator, which is something we tried to do over the last 7 years, is finally done in this bill on a bipartisan
basis. Recent news makes it clear these entities need a strong regulator to ensure they are viable and healthy institutions.
The bill raises the loan limit from $417,000 to as high as $625,000, so the GSEs can play a more active role in stabilizing the housing market. I wish to point out that this loan limit is considerably higher than what was included in the committee-passed bill. Senator Shelby, to his credit, and I agreed to do this in an effort to accommodate the interest of the other body, the House. And also the people who live in higher cost States, the higher numbers will be important for them to
get relief as well from the bill.
Treasury Secretary Paulson said passing this legislation is the most important thing we can do to address the housing crisis. The bill modernizes the FHA program, raising the loan limit from $362,000 to $625,000. The FHA proved its value in the current crisis. It continues to be a stable source of mortgage credit, while many other lenders have failed. This bill will make sure FHA is available to even more American families.
To give you some idea of how this affects people, by raising these limits to the $625,000 level from $417,000, we will now cover 85 percent of the American population and 98 percent of the counties in America. The other 2 percent are the very high-cost counties. My [Page: S6520]
State has one of them, and several other States across the country do as well. But 85 percent of the American people are potentially covered by this bill, and 98 percent of the counties will
be covered by the numbers we have raised from $417,000 to $625,000. When people tell you we are not reaching enough, we have reached about as far as you can reach if you are interested in helping those who may face more serious problems.
The bill includes a permanent affordable housing fund, financed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, that will provide tens of thousands of affordable housing units in the future. Let me say, about this part of the bill, the GSE reform will be long lasting and important. The HOPE for Homeowners Act is temporary; it doesn't exist after 3 or 4 years. Maybe the most important thing we will do is the affordable housing issue in this bill. No new tax money required. The money will come out of the GSEs.
We know, as a matter of fact, that we have built very few affordable housing units in this country over the last number of years. And particularly those people losing their homes will have a hard time finding rental units. This is a permanent bill on affordable housing, and there is a means to pay for it without adding to the taxpayers' costs. It is one of the most important long-lasting features of the bill. In the long term, that bill will make a huge difference for millions of people.
Seventeen million people today spend half their disposable income on their houses. If you are on SSI, in fact, housing costs exceed the monthly benefits you get today under SSI. For millions of people in this country, that affordable housing provision can be very important in the long term.
The bill includes a new protection for elderly homeowners taking out FHA-insured reverse mortgages so they are not deceived into using the proceeds from the loans to buy expensive and needless insurance products. These are provisions that were incorporated by Senator McCaskill, and we thank her for it. There is a new mortgage broker and lender licensing requirement that was added by Senator Martinez and supported by Senator Feinstein from California. That will begin
to address many of the abuses of the mortgage process that have been perpetrated by brokers.
In addition, the bill includes improved disclosure requirements that were added by Senator Reed of Rhode Island and Senator Bond of Missouri as well. Because of the effort of Senators Kerry, Coleman, Akaka, Cornyn, and Sanders, the bill expands the availability of VA housing programs. It includes a number of provisions to help returning veterans save their homes from foreclosure and provides new housing benefits to disabled vets as well.
In an amendment adopted on the floor prior to the recess, we added language by Senator Kohl of Wisconsin to create protections against foreclosure scams, and we reduced paperwork burdens on certain small public housing authorities, thanks to the amendment by Senator Sununu.
This legislation includes $3.9 billion in emergency community development block grant funds. This is a controversial provision. I know some Members have raised concerns about it. I think all of us recognize that when we talk about a national crisis, with problems of foreclosures having a devastating effect in our States, obviously, resources locally, with property taxes declining for police and fire, and the like, our mayors and county officers are finding themselves further hard-strapped to
meet their obligations. We thought an infusion of community development block grant money, targeted specifically to those communities that face high foreclosure rates, would be of benefit to them to help them rehabilitate their communities and the foreclosed homes and get them back on the market. This is still in the bill.
I have been warned by Members of the other body that this provision will have to come out. I know some Members want to strike it. It is going to stay in the bill that is going to the other body. They object to it because they don't have a pay-for in it, and we do here. We call it emergency funding, as we do when we have hurricanes or other natural disasters occurring. This is similar to a natural disaster. If you are one of those 250,000 families who, in the month of June, lost their homes--whether
by flood or by hurricane, believe me, it is a disaster. They lost it because they got lured into deals they could not afford or because there was a scam or deceptive practices going on. Don't try to tell that family
they have not faced a disaster. It is not a natural one, but nonetheless it is a disaster. The idea that we cannot provide additional funding to mayors and county executives to help out communities is something I am troubled by. It may come out of the bill when it comes back. I urge them to look hard at this and try to find a funding source.
I ask unanimous consent for an additional 5 or 10 minutes.
|10:54 AM EDT||
Bob Menendez, D-NJ
Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Connecticut for his leadership. I rise to express my disappointment that it appears that the managers' package is being blocked by one or two of my friends on the other side of the aisle. This package includes, among other important provisions, my amendment, offered by family and children organizations across the country, to help children who are the silent victims of the housing crisis.
My amendment authorizes $30 million in additional funding into the existing McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Program to support children directly impacted by foreclosures. There are about 2 million children in this country, including 50,000 in New Jersey and over half a million Latino children nationwide, who will be directly impacted by the foreclosure crisis, placing them at risk of poor school performance, behavior problems, and other challenges as well.
While we provide lower interest rates supporting the homebuilding industry and reform mortgage lending practices, several children's organizations and educational organizations have asked for this amendment as a modest way that our Nation can support the nearly 2 million children who are suffering the consequences of decisions made completely outside their control.
The foreclosure crisis is damaging our economy. Let us not forget that the children who have no say, no ability to make a difference in their lives, are the real victims of this crisis and, even worse, they are the silent victims. It is not fair these children get lost in the paperwork or in the politics of one Member, and they deserve our full support.
This amendment was being cosponsored by several colleagues. We worked with Senator Enzi, who had original jurisdiction, along with Senator Kennedy, to get the language right. We appreciate Senator Shelby having it in the managers' package. If that cannot move forward, these children will be left unprotected. That is a disgrace.
|11:22 AM EDT||
Harry Reid, D-NV
Mr. REID. Mr. President, for the information of all Senators, I have been advised by Senators Dodd and Shelby that they likely will be able to finish their work on the housing bill today.
We have also pending a cloture vote tomorrow morning on the PEPFAR bill. I have had a conversation with the Republican assistant leader and we kind of know where we are on this issue. We could, with consent, move that vote up today or do it in the morning. Whatever, we on this side would be satisfied to do it today.
I have had a conversation with Senator Biden, who has helped a great deal on this piece of legislation, and he said he was going to confer with Senator Lugar to see if the last kinks can be worked out. Frankly, that is doubtful. So we can either have that cloture vote in the morning or this afternoon, and we await the word of the minority as to what they wish to do on that issue.