PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF H.R. 6604, COMMODITY MARKETS TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - September 18, 2008)
Ms. SUTTON. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Madam Speaker, House Resolution 1449 provides for consideration of H.R. 6604, the Commodity Markets Transparency and Accountability Act. The rule provides for 1 hour of debate controlled by the Committee on Agriculture and provides one motion to recommit with or without instructions.
The rule makes in order as base text an amendment in the nature of a substitute printed in the Rules Committee report. The text of this substitute amendment is almost identical to the version of the bill that was considered under suspension of the rules on July 30. That bill received 276 votes from both sides of the aisle.
Madam Speaker, since this bill was last on the House floor in July, the American people and our economy continue to struggle with high food and energy prices and a weak job market. From the subprime mortgage crisis and the financial meltdown, to the unethical behavior of the Minerals Management Service, the necessary and proper oversight has clearly not been taking place. In some cases laws may have been broken, and as a result homes have been taken through foreclosure. Savings have been lost. Dreams of the American people in many cases have been shattered.
Madam Speaker, we are fighting to stop the pain that the American people are feeling, to restore their trust in government, and revitalize our communities.
We must take action and we must take action now. For many years now, too many Americans have felt that their government is working not with them but against them. But this Democratic Congress is working to take our Nation in a new direction. On Tuesday we passed a comprehensive energy bill that will lower gas prices for American families, invest in renewable and alternative energy, and responsibly expand exploration in the Outer Continental Shelf.
But Madam Speaker, speculators continue to enjoy free rein at the expense of our pocketbooks. And that is unacceptable.
We have all seen the recent headlines and reports identifying that oil speculators are out of control. One of the newspapers serving my congressional district, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, printed an article last Thursday on this very issue. The headline read, ``More scrutiny of oil speculators. Evidence shows they operated in `dark markets' to hide prices.''
The article goes on to state that ``unregulated markets account for about two-thirds of oil trading, and that they can be used to manipulate oil prices.''
Madam Speaker, as I said earlier, the American people simply want a government that works for them instead of against them. Today, we will pass the Commodity Markets Transparency and Accountability Act so that our commodity markets will, once again, work the way they were intended to work.
Our bill provides the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, or the CFTC, with new resources to improve enforcement, prevent manipulation and prosecute fraud. It provides the CFTC with the authority and direction to address excessive speculation which has undermined the basic principles of supply and demand. It has artificially inflated the price of oil and, in the process, has hurt families in Ohio and all across this great Nation. This bill will work for the people, instead of working for those who look to exploit loopholes and seek to manipulate the market.
Now we all know that Wall Street has found exotic ways to create their own markets, and with this bill, we will fix the London Loophole. And why is that important?
The London Loophole currently allows traders to circumvent U.S. laws and trading rules by working through foreign boards of trade. This bill requires foreign boards of trade that offer electronic access to U.S. traders to adopt similar speculative limits and regulations. The foreign boards of trade will also now be required to share large trader reporting data with the CFTC.
Additionally, H.R. 6604 requires that the CFTC set standards for all energy and agricultural futures markets. This is critically important, as it will limit traders' ability to distort the market.
Our bill will also require the CFTC to have a complete picture now of the swaps markets. Index traders and swap dealers will be subject to strict reporting and recordkeeping requirements.
And lastly, under this bill, position reporting will become mandatory for over-the-counter trading in agricultural and energy contracts.
Now, Madam Speaker, some of what I've said sounds very technical, and it may be a little bit difficult to understand because of that technicality. But to put it very simply, our actions here today will add the necessary oversight and transparency to shed light on the ``dark markets.''
With the recent revelations on Wall Street and the run-up on oil prices under the Bush administration's failed energy policy, these changes are long overdue.
But there are some, Madam Speaker, who may not want us to make the changes in our market system so that we can bring relief to the American people. There are some who may try to say that we're adding too much regulation.
But the recent collapse of certain financial giants has only further illustrated the great need to revisit these issues and ensure that the voices of the people are being heard, and that they are being protected.
There are some who may try to say that we're restricting the ability of hedgers, those who trade in futures, to offset their price risk. But they are misinformed. This bill provides exemptions for bona fide hedgers. They are the ones that the commodity markets were designed to work with.
But we know that unscrupulous speculators can interfere with the ability of producers and processors who use these markets for legitimate purposes. On Tuesday, as speculators dumped oil for cash, oil closed at just over $91 a barrel, a nearly 38 percent drop since the record high of $147 in July. But just yesterday, oil prices shot up $6 a barrel as, ``fears of a spreading crisis in the U.S. financial sector sent skittish investors scrambling out of stocks,'' according to the AP.
Madam Speaker, our commodities should not be treated as a speculator's safety net. We cannot allow speculators to continue to drive prices of our commodities beyond the normal ebb and flow of supply and demand.
Families in my district and all across our great country want commonsense policies that will work for them, instead of rewarding a select few. This is the new direction that the American people have called for, one that puts the voices of the people ahead of the special interests.
I hope that all of our colleagues will join us in taking this step today to pass this bill that, as I mentioned, has previously passed with a bipartisan majority in July, but not the two-thirds majority that was necessary under suspension. But we can get it done.
Madam Speaker, the Commodity Markets Transparency and Accountability Act will increase oversight and transparency, and will prevent oil prices from being artificially inflated.
I urge my colleagues to support House Resolution 1449 and this incredibly important underlying legislation.
I reserve the balance of my time.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Ms. SUTTON. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Before I yield to the distinguished gentleman from Vermont, I would like to yield myself as much time as I may consume.
Madam Speaker, I thank the chairman of the Agriculture Committee for coming forward and talking about this issue here today and for making the point that this bill is a bill that is virtually identical to a bill that was passed in July, as I said, on a very big bipartisan vote; 61 of our friends, the Republicans, voted for it, including Mr. Conaway. That bill was the result of multiple hearings in the Agriculture Committee, and no Republicans during that period of time offered up any amendments in the Ag Committee markup.
Chairman Peterson graciously made it very clear here today that this bill continues through the process and that he is absolutely willing to work with Mr. Conaway as we move forward on this very, very important legislation.
At this time, Madam Speaker, it's my honor to yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Vermont (Mr. Welch), a member of the Rules Committee.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Ms. SUTTON. Madam Speaker, this is a good bill. The Republican Party and my good friend from Texas, they had 12 years to put forward a comprehensive energy policy for the future, and they failed to do so. And for 12 years, they had the opportunity to provide accountability and oversight in our commodities market, and they failed to do so.
Earlier this week, we took steps to pass a comprehensive energy bill that's going to lower prices for consumers, protect taxpayers, expand responsible offshore domestic drilling, expand renewable sources of energy, increase our security by freeing America from the grip of foreign oil, and require Big Oil to pay what it owes to America's taxpayers. And we're going to create good-paying jobs as we move forward on this forward-thinking energy policy.
Today, Madam Speaker, we pass an equally important measure. All of those out there who have been held hostage by the greed of some of our speculators who treat our commodities as a safety net, well, the party is over. This bill will strengthen the CFTC's enforcement resources. In recent days, trading volume has increased 8,000 percent since the CFTC was created, but the agency is operating at its lowest staffing level since 1974. This bill calls for a minimum of 100 full-time CFTC employees to enforce manipulation and fraud regulation.
Madam Speaker, this bill is about protecting and strengthening the economy for the people in Ohio and across America, not a select few on Wall Street and abroad. It's time that we get it done. It's about ensuring that the loopholes are closed to prevent another historic run-up in the price of oil. It's about providing the tools and having the political will to prevent potential price distortions caused by excessive speculative trading.
Madam Speaker, this bill was passed by the Agriculture Committee by a voice vote in a bipartisan manner in July. So no matter what we hear from those who may oppose what we are trying to do, we need to pass this bill. It's the right thing to do for our country, it's the right thing to do for our constituents.
I urge a ``yes'' vote on the previous question and on the rule.