FEDERAL RAILROAD SAFETY IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2007 -- (Senate - September 29, 2008)
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Mr. DOMENICI. Madam President, the House of Representatives today defeated the proposed financial rescue plan devised by a bipartisan, multi-institutional group. This action will precipitate an economic catastrophe for the United States of America. While the initial response to this ill-advised action has been so far limited to equity markets and corporate bond markets, I predict the defeat of this plan will soon permeate our entire economy. It will also have serious and not completely predictable consequences in all markets throughout the world.
The plan has many features in it that those who oppose had sought. It added many new safeguards for the taxpayer. Yet a rigid adherence to an ideological purity on both sides that has never existed in our Nation led many in the House to reject this plan.
I do not know right now in what form the consequences of this action will hurt the average American. Higher interest rates for houses and other things, other long-term purchases, a continued freeze on the tax credit markets, loss of jobs and contraction of the economy, loss of billions of dollars in pension plans--the consequences will come.
This action cannot be the last word this Congress has to say. I urge everyone involved to begin to work again immediately on adjustments to the plan that will at least satisfy a majority in the House.
This Congress has an approval rating at an alltime low. None of us should be surprised as to why. We cannot let the situation lie as it now is as a consequence of not passing in the House of Representatives. The leadership and those Members who feel compelled to get something done for the United States in a moment of great economic peril should come together and see to it that we do what is right.
It is difficult to do what is right because frequently our people do not understand. There are those who are obviously concerned that those who vote don't understand and indicate that we should not have a big bailout. This is not a big bailout bill. We got off on the wrong path when we started talking about bailouts.
There are no bailouts here. What we are going to do is buy assets, buy mortgages, buy promissory notes, buy things of value that, as of today, are very low in value and are clogging the pathways for money to flow. We are going to buy those. We are not going to bail anybody out. When we buy those, the channel will be open again. The road will be opened. The freeway will be opened. The cars will run. Money will flow. The liquid channels will become liquid again. Unless and until we do that, they are clogged.
The clogged items, the things that clog up our money market lines, are going to be purchased by this rescue plan. They will be owned by this rescue plan. This rescue plan will hold these assets as nobody else could hold them. It is too big a quantity and you cannot afford to hold them, but we can hold them and then sell them later. There is good indication and justification that if we do not wait too long that this rescue plan will sell these assets and perhaps we will come out with more money than we paid for the rescue plan.
We need this mechanism because in our democracy our President does not have the authority to do it. So somebody must do it, and it means Congress must, even though it is complicated, even though it is comprehensive, and even though it is hard for the public to understand. We must continue to explain this to the public. They will be wondering today and tomorrow and the next day, as banking institutions fail, as other things around them that have money at the bases will stop working right.
As I said, so far the equity markets--that is the stock markets--they can see those falling perhaps by historically large numbers, percentages. Corporate bond markets--we have already seen the effect on them. But there will be other things happening that will make the people understand. But it should not be that we have to let all of these terrible things happen in order to get our heads together and know it is going to happen and try to fix it and tell our people we have to fix something that is broken and that will only cause them and their families more grief and more hard times if we do not use a rescue plan to buy those assets that are clogging the financial highways and freeways so that money will flow.
I know I have spoken two or three times on the subject. Some will say that is enough. But I will speak and I will argue and I will debate and I will attend meetings for as long as they go on with Senators and Representatives in an effort to make the vote that happened today not the last action on this terribly difficult subject for the people of the United States--a rescue plan to let the financial markets work in America.
The greatest financial markets in the world are soon to be rubbish, are soon to be in terrible shape. The best will turn out to be the least. In the meantime, we are all going to suffer. Just remember, without the flow of money we can hardly do anything in our country. We can hardly buy anything. We can hardly sell anything. Anything you look at of value can hardly happen without the flow of money, credit cards, checking accounts, bonds. All of those things we have become acquainted with that are taken for granted are in jeopardy because of what I have just described and what we hope has been described over and over.
For those who read, I urge they read the speech of Senator Lamar Alexander this morning on the subject. He used a metaphor that I have given to a group of Senators of a freeway full of automobiles at high speed going down the road, and each one of those cars was something valuable happening in America. When the six lanes of the road were clogged by a six-car accident, the cars loaded with good things for America, financial things, were all stopped because of the car wreck.
Now, if that metaphor makes sense, what our rescue proposal says is, go out and buy the salvage and get it out of the road. Let the cars flow, and each of those cars that contains things that will make our lives different and valuable will be flowing down the road. The salvage can be repaired and, believe it or not, sold for more than we bought it at in salvage off the highway.
That is as best I can do. As somebody said: But we need just one or two words to express it. Somebody answered and said: Yes, the American people like one or two words, but they also like a story. So I just told them the best story I can of what this is all about.
I hope before too long there will be more support so Members of the Congress, the House in particular, will be strengthened by some changes in public opinion that will give them confidence to vote for this rescue plan.
Madam President, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
Madam President, I withdraw that suggestion and yield the floor.