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Public Statements

Federal Housing Finance Reform Act of 2007

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


FEDERAL HOUSING FINANCE REFORM ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - May 17, 2007)

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Mr. ROSKAM. Mr. Chairman, this amendment would take the conversation this evening in a little bit of a different direction. It simply would postpone the diversion of funds to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund that is created in this bill until such time as Congress stops raiding the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for unrelated government programs.

This year, the majority proposed and passed a budget that assumes it will raid the entire Social Security surplus, an estimated $190 billion, to spend on other government programs, and that amount will increase to $203 billion for the year 2008.

During the course of many of our journeys to this office in this last election cycle, we stood up in senior centers and in conversations and in coffee and corner conversations, and we said, ``We will stand firmly with the seniors on behalf of Social Security.''

The chairman of the Financial Services Committee has sort of quietly admonished the Republicans on this side of the aisle who were here in the year 2005 for voting on a past bill and so forth. But there are 54 new Members of the House of Representatives, and we all took the oath of office. I took it right over there where Congressman Feeney is sitting, took my oath; my wife was in the audience, my children were by my side, my mom and dad were here. Fifty-four of us all came in, 13 on our side, 41 on the other side, and we took that oath of office. We were not part of the conversation in the year 2005, but many of us campaigned on the integrity of the Social Security system.

Mr. Chairman, I don't know what the parliamentary rule is on referring to quotes and so forth, and I know that it is not what in our family is called cool, so I am not going to name names. But a quick Google search of the new Members of Congress who joined me in this class, the class of 110th, criticized opponents that they defeated for voting to rob the Social Security Trust Fund and spend it on other programs.

``Those were documented votes. Those are budget votes, and they used the Social Security Trust Fund to mask the overall Federal deficit.''

Someone else said, ``We are going to make sure we have real substantive programs about how we make sure Social Security is secure.''

Or, Mr. Chairman, how about this. Another new Member said in their campaign that they would ``fight for Social Security for seniors.''

Or how about this language. That they would ``stop the raids on the Social Security Trust Fund that are used to help cover our Nation's huge Federal budget deficits.''

You get the point.

You know, life is choices. And I respect the chairman and his passion on this bill and the intellectual honesty with which he has approached this. When I saw the chairman, who was injured, I sort of thought that he might have tripped and fell over one of those Blue Dog signs that are littered all over the Cannon Building in my office. They are everywhere. Mr. Chairman, I have a copy of one of the Blue Dog signs that says, ``The Blue Dog Coalition. The national debt is $8.8 trillion, and your share of the national debt is $29,000.''

You know what? Those signs are getting a little bit faded. There is not quite so much interest in that issue right now on the part of the Blue Dogs, it seems to me.

I think we have choices to make, and I would submit that the choice that we have to make is a choice of priorities. And voting ``yes'' on this amendment says our highest priority in this conversation that we are having is to ensure the integrity of the Social Security system. It simply says, it transcends this last hour or two of debate. It doesn't get into the profitability and loss, the shareholders, and so forth. It admits, okay, great idea. But put it on pause, and take the money that the chairman has found, take the money and put it into the Social Security Trust Fund. That is what this amendment says. It says put it on pause, and use it to fund our obligations.

Look, we have got a lot of moving parts in terms of problems in this country. We have got the national debt, we have got veterans obligations, we have got pension obligations. We have got to lower gas prices. You name it. There is one thing after another that we need to do. And all this bill does is it says, great idea, terrific idea even; wrong time.

So I think the majority owes a great debt of gratitude to the chairman of the committee, because he has come up with $3 billion that can be enacted in one rollcall this evening to make the Blue Dog Coalition promise come true.

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Mr. ROSKAM. Page 2, paragraph I, the term ``actual on budget deficit'' means, with respect to the fiscal years, for fiscal year the total outlies of the government, excluding for Social Security program, exceeds the total receipts of----

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. I understand that. That is a definition of the deficit. Good for the gentleman. But it does not put any money into the deficit. The gentleman said that if we passed his amendment, we would be choosing to put the money, instead of into affordable housing, into helping Social Security. The amendment doesn't say that.

Mr. ROSKAM. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. I will yield if the gentleman will give me an answer to the question. Reading his amendment doesn't get to the question. How does your amendment transfer money into Social Security?

Mr. ROSKAM. Maybe it is a two-step dance.

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. No.

Mr. ROSKAM. Will you yield?

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. I will yield, it is a two-step dance. Is the gentleman asking me to dance?

Mr. ROSKAM. The first step is to push the pause button, Mr. Chairman, and to recognize the current obligation--

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Mr. ROSKAM. I thank the gentleman.

In the same way, Mr. Chairman, you have demonstrated it to the committee, and you have been a leader in this dance, basically, by saying, ``Trust me in how we are going to fund this.''

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Mr. ROSKAM. I thank my colleague for yielding.

Mr. Chairman, I think it is important within this context to realize who has the gavel and who has the majority.

Mr. Chairman, you have the majority. You have the ability to direct vast sums of money. And what I am suggesting is that in your earlier conversation regarding those that were a part of the 2005 vote that you sort of felt like was somehow binding into perpetuity, 54 of us, Mr. Chairman, were not part of that conversation, and 54 of us didn't really find it informative.

There are 54 of us that came in this Congress totally new, fresh. We are the Etch-A-Sketch that is clean; 41 on your side of the aisle and 13 of us.

And so what I am suggesting is in the course of the campaigns that brought us here, many, many of us, and I Googled and searched several of yours and I didn't want to string them out by naming names and so forth. But many of your new freshmen said they were champions of Social Security. Well, you know what? They have got an opportunity to vote in favor of this bill.

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. ROSKAM. Let me make my point, and I will reciprocate. But, like you do, you tend to finish your point.

Mr. Chairman, we have to make priorities.

You know, I come from the O'Hare Airport area. O'Hare is in my district. And you know, the biggest challenge in O'Hare and why everybody hates flying through it is because there are so many planes in the air. This puts another plane in the air when nationally, you know what, we've got so many things circling, we've got one obligation after another that we're not doing well.

I commend the chairman. Look, you found $3 billion. The Democrats should give you a legislative, well, I was going to say something that was a little over top. They should congratulate you for finding that type of, those type of resources. And what I'm suggesting, Mr. Chairman, is that we put this on pause. I'm not getting involved in the debate earlier about whether it's a good idea or a bad idea. Say, for the sake of argument, it's fabulous. Say, for the sake of argument, western civilization won't process forward without it. I still say that there are higher priorities. And I named any number of them.

And what you have done, Mr. Chairman, in your advocacy and the way that you have asked us to, I would characterize it as trust you on how this is going to be articulated and distributed in the future based on legislation that you will have a profound influence on. And I would also say that we've got the ability, it's a two-step process.

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Mr. ROSKAM. I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I appreciate my colleague's instruction on germaneness. I have drunk of that cup. I offered what I thought was a relevant but nongermane amendment and sort of learned the hard way the buzz saw of the parliamentarian on a previous bill and sort of learned my lesson. I thank the gentleman for that.

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Mr. ROSKAM. Mr. Chairman, if the gentleman from New Jersey will continue to yield, we can have a wonderful conversation about germaneness. But getting back to the chairman's point earlier about what I characterize as a ``trust in me'' argument. No, you didn't use the ``words trust in me,'' but I think it is important that the body not be left confused about the implication at least that we took about a verbal interchange that the chairman had with the gentlewoman from Illinois (Mrs. Biggert) when she asked, and I am quoting from the committee transcript: ``I know we have discussed the fact that there might be other ways to do this, but it seems if it is the chairman's plan to reconsider the details of the housing fund in the future, why not just take the fund out of here and then have the hearings and then make the decision.''

And at that point Mrs. Biggert continued: ``I cannot remember a time where we put something in and said maybe we will do this in this way but then we might do it another way and then we will go back and re-do it.''

And then she yielded to the chairman, who then said: ``The reason I do not want to leave it out now is I am very strongly committed to it, perhaps more than some other members. It is, I think, a rational part of this bill. It is a part of, frankly, an agreement.

``Let me be very clear. I believe that there is a great deal of interest on the part of the administration and some others in having a greatly increased regulatory structure for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

``Not everybody who wants an increased regulatory structure for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is committed to that Affordable Housing Fund. If the Affordable Housing Fund was not established in this bill and was a stand-alone bill, it might get vetoed.

``I think it is less likely to cause vetoing of the whole bill. I like very much the idea of the Affordable Housing Fund. I do not believe it could stand on its own necessarily, and that is the reason for including it in this bill.''

Now, I took from that, and I think it is a very reasonable inference, Mr. Chairman, the ``trust in me'' argument, and I think that that is a consistent argument.

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Mr. ROSKAM. Mr. Chairman, I am always one to learn and I am always open to instruction, and I appreciate that very much. But the point is when a question is asked in committee and the ranking member of a subcommittee asks it and it is essentially not answered, I think the subtext is ``trust in me.'' And I think that the opportunity as we move forward is to say, look, we have got an opportunity to take a $3 billion fund here that has been created that the chairman of the committee has found and to do the right thing with it.

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