3:46 PM EDT
Barney Frank, D-MA 4th

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, I understand the complaints about the process. Remember, though, that several of the bills being reenacted today have already been fully debated and amended on the floor. There is one that was not subject to the normal--and I'm a general defender of the normal--process. It's the FHA rescue bill.

And I will say, in this case, I think it is fair to ask Members to vote for it up or down. It is a very interrelated piece of legislation. It tries to balance cost and incentive. It would be easy to put it out of whack. And in this one case I think it is fair to say you can vote it up or you can vote it down. Members will have a chance to vote on it. While it's in the form of an amendment, if that amendment is defeated, it dies.

I also want to address the issue of the amendment offered by the gentleman from North Carolina and the gentleman from Ohio regarding preemption, because there may be some confusion.

I personally spoke, today, with representatives of the banking organizations, the American Bankers Association, the Independent Community Bankers, and the Mortgage Bankers. They took the position that if we were able to adopt the language offered by the gentleman from Ohio, they would find this a bill that they would accept and would not seek to defeat.

Because of an objection, we weren't able to do this, so technically, yes, they had previously said they were opposed to it in that form. They have also said, after we outlined the procedure that was followed by the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. LaTourette), the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Miller) and myself, that it is now acceptable; that is, while we were blocked by an objection from adopting the actual language, the language that was agreed to by them, by the Attorneys

General, by the State bank supervisors, by advocacy groups, will be the language that's in the bill. So let there be no doubt about that. There is no substantive objection to what will happen.

Now, let me talk about the bill. I guess I want to, not damn my bill today with faint praise, but support it. It comes from the economists.

Now, the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Flake), for whom I have a great deal of respect, a man of very high intellectual integrity, he chided me because I have taken a free market position, but not here. And I'll respond this way.

I have opposed systemic interventions in the market. I think it is generally unwise for us to enact legislation which, in an ongoing way, displaces the market. But that's not what we do here. There is a part of the reality of the market that is called market failure. People have won Nobel Prizes, Joe Stiglitz, for work about market failure. Clearly there has been market failure with regard to mortgages. The market failure was the breaking of the lender-borrower relationship and the substitution

of securitization without appropriate countervailing incentives.

This bill today is no ongoing intervention in the market. It is time limited, and limited in specifics to a subset of mortgages. It seeks to undo, to some extent, to mitigate a market failure. It will leave the market, I believe, stronger going forward.

So I accept the gentleman from Arizona's reminding me that I should stay true to free market principles. This bill is true to free market principles.

And let me quote one of the leading advocates of free market principles in the English-speaking world, the Economist, called to my attention by the staff of the Financial Services Committee, which has done enormously good work in substantively putting this bill together, and in listening to me talk about it in various ways.

And I appreciate both aspects of that.

Here's what the Economist said: ``The plan is hardly a bailout,'' talking about this bill. This is a current Economist. ``Lenders would have to write down their loans to 85 percent of the current value of a house.'' By the way, under FHA Security Administration's plan, they can get a 100 percent loan put in. They can get somebody who's defaulted and get them a 100 percent loan. We require an 85 percent writedown to the value.

``Borrowers would pay a fee for the insurance and give up a share of any later price rise to the government.'' By the way, they would also be barred for 5 years from taking out a second mortgage. So the borrowers under this, if there was an increase in equity, would have to share much of it with the Government, and the earlier in the process in which they sold out, the more the Government would get. That's not the bailout that people have described.

People worry about moral hazard. I would assure people, no borrower who goes through this process will say at the end of it, ``Boy, that was fun. Where do I buy a ticket to get back on Space Mountain?'' They will be deterred.

But we're not relying solely on this. Two-thirds plus of this House, many of my Republican colleagues didn't do it, but many of my Republican colleagues did. We voted for a bill to regulate subprime mortgages going forward. We're not simply relying on people's bad experience. We have put some restrictions on that.

I believe this is pro-market. The markets now are in trouble because a lot of people who were very smart bought things they shouldn't have bought, including subprime mortgages. And having bought things they shouldn't have bought, they now don't want to buy things they should buy.

We all know the little story about the child who touches the hot stove, [Page: H3306]

and having touched a hot stove and being burned, won't go near the stove. We have investors today who, having touched the hot stove, are staying away from the refrigerator, the sink and the shower because they have been so badly burned.

If we do not adopt appropriate responses to this market failure, we will not cure it, and the lag in investments will continue.

We are working through the market here. It is voluntary that a lender says we're going to cut it down. People say, well, they'll dump all their bad loans. Have the Republicans who say that, because many Republicans are with us, so little confidence in the FHA?

Nothing in this bill coerces the FHA to accept a single loan that it finds unlikely to be repaid. And CBO accepts that, because they say of 500,000 loans that they expect to be accepted, the failure rate will be, average out to $4,800 per loan. Do you really think if the loan failed it would only cost us $4,800?

That figure, that $2.4 billion is CBO saying that there won't be many failures because of the criteria that are in this bill.

And people have said, what about the people who paid their mortgages? Well, if they live in a neighborhood where there is foreclosure, they're getting hurt. If they live in a city where the property tax revenues are going down, they're getting hurt. And if they live in America, they are in the midst of a recession in which we are losing jobs when we should be gaining them, in which real wages have been pulled down, and the single biggest cause of this recession is the subprime crisis and its


This is a rare case of a microeconomic factor causing a macroeconomic problem. And the market got us into this. And we don't say junk the market. And I know people who have said, oh, the market's way too smart. And people have said to me, you know, some smart people don't agree with this proposal. Well, I agree with that.

But I also have to note that no dumb people got America into this problem. You had to be really smart to understand collateralized debt obligation derivatives. And the problem is that we need to restrain some of their instincts and let the market function again. And it simply will not happen if you simply let it go.

Here's what we say. And, by the way, I supported Hope Now when it came out. But Hope Now had a flaw. It was based on the notion--Members don't even pay attention to this--it was based on the notion that the problem was when the mortgage reset to a higher rate under adjustable rate mortgages, that would be the problem. That hasn't been the problem.

The problem has been people who owe more than the loan is worth. Some of them were irresponsible in the first place. Some of them made the mistake that almost everybody else made of not foreseeing the depth of the drop in house prices. So Hope Now has been overtaken by events.

We here are responding to reality in a way that is pro-market and minimizes the outlay. I hope the bill is passed.