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SEN. DODD: Let me apologize to our witnesses and colleagues for a slight delay. We have a bill on the floor of the Senate that is out of the Judiciary Committee, but given the number of amendments that have been offered, you'd almost think it was a Banking Committee bill. And so Senator Leahy is -- was asking for me to stay on the floor to consider some of the amendments being offered, and we're going to try and work something out so that we can maybe have a member here complete the nomination process if I'm unable to complete it in order to get to the floor to participate in the debates on the Judiciary Committee bill. So I apologize. We're trying to work this all out and added some confusion this morning, and I know how busy people are in terms of schedules.
What I'm going to do is make some brief opening comments, and then I'm going to recognize with the permission of my colleagues on the committee our members who have joined us here, including the distinguished chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Congressman Frank, to make some introduction of witnesses, and then I'll go to my colleagues on the committee for any comments they may have, then, of course, to our witnesses.
And we have quite a panel here this morning, and we're grateful to all of you for your willingness to serve. Want to congratulate you on being nominated and thank you for your -- as I said, your willingness to be apart of the change that we all seek in our country. So I'd like to welcome all of you here this morning. As you know, this committee has been working closely with the Administration to implement the various programs that will provide critically important issues to our nation's economic recovery. An integral part of this process is the selection of strong and very talented leaders to oversee and manage the operations of these programs and departments.
The American people are looking for leaders who will help bring us out of our crisis that we're in economically by fixing our housing problem, promoting economic growth, and stabilizing our financial system. It'll be those of you sitting before this committee this morning, if confirmed, who will be charged with carrying out these very important responsibilities.
Today we consider seven nominations; Mr. Ronald Sims of the State of Washington to be the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, Mr. Fred Hochberg of New York to be chairman and President of the U.S. Export/Import Bank, Ms. Helen Kanovsky of Maryland to be the general council of HUD, Mr. David Stevens of Virginia to be the assistant secretary for housing and federal housing commissioner, Mr. Peter Kovar, also of Maryland, to be assistant secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs of HUD, Mr. John Trasvina of California to be assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity of HUD, and Mr. David Cohen of Maryland to be assistant secretary for terrorist financing at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
As my colleagues know, we'll have more nomination hearings to go, so I'll be consulting with my colleagues on this committee in an effort to develop a schedule for another hearing in the very near future. It has always been this committee's view, and particularly given the urgency of our economy situation, that we ought to help get the President's Cabinet in place as quickly as possible. We have five HUD nominees before us today, and if the housing crisis is at the root of the economic crisis, as I believe it is, then I believe many -- believe you in many ways will be the authors at least of a good portion of the economic recovery we all seek.
For the past three or four years, the country has been facing a very serious housing problem that has its origins in the scourge of predatory lending, resulting in record high foreclosure rates. Across our nation between 9,000 and 10,000 homeowners face foreclosure every single day. I'm pleased to note that the new Administration has taken a much more aggressive approach to dealing with the housing problem than did its predecessor working to halt the spread of foreclosures and to provide opportunities for homeowners to refinance their mortgage and receive housing counseling.
The importance of succeeding in these programs cannot be stressed enough. Like never before, we need an engaged, aggressive, and well-run Department of Housing and Urban Development with leadership that is confident in its mission and unafraid to act. As President Obama as himself said, "HUD's role" -- and I quote him -- "has never been more important," end of quote. And while HUD has been mismanaged and riddled with scandal in recent years, there is an important time for new, bold leadership and a clear direction. And I believe that Secretary Donovan is already providing just that kind of leadership.
So I would like to welcome Mr. Sims, Ron Sims, who've I've known for a long time as a former local official in the State of Washington, who is a nominee for the deputy secretary. He'll be working closely with Secretary Donovan, particularly on the day-to-day management of the agency. Currently, the county executive in King County, Washington -- he comes with years of experience in public service and in working with urban policy and city planning.
He also brings with him both a passion for breaking down the barriers between housing, transportation, and environmental policies, and more importantly, the results to show for it. I share his enthusiasm, and I look forward to discussing how we can spur the kind of transit-oriented development that gets our economy moving again, reduces congestion, cuts transportation costs for working families, and creates the kind of safe and affordable shelter needed in our country.
We also welcome the nominee for chairman and president of the U.S. Export/Import Bank, Mr. Hochberg, who I've known as well for many, many years.
The Export/Import Bank is celebrating its 75th anniversary as the lead government agency for financing U.S. exports. It was founded in 1934, in fact, at a time not unlike the ones we're in today, and designed very specifically to create jobs here at home.
And I have some very important questions for you, Mr. Hochberg, but the agency, in my view, has been failing in that responsibility at this time. It's not creating the kind of jobs -- you have lending authority, you have insurance authority, and guarantee authority, and neither of those areas are being fully complimented, in my view, at a time like this. So I have some very important issues, and you can come at an important moment.
And since its time, this agency has supported over $450 billion in U.S. exports and hundreds of thousands of good American jobs. In these tough economic times we need a strong Export/Import Bank to increase our ability to make products that foreigners buy, want, and to develop and help our exporters secure the financing they need to sell those products. And with Mr. Hochberg's unique blend of leadership skills honed over 30 years in the private sector, government, philanthropy, and academia, I think the Export/Import Bank will have a leader who understands the U.S. -- the impact that the financial crisis is having on financing of U.S. exports. So I welcome our additional nominees, HUD nominees, as well.
And Ms. Kanovsky will also have a critical, important role in strengthening the agency's operations and programs as the nominee for general counsel. Currently, she is the chief operating officer of the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust, where she's worked for the past 13 years. And I've known her as well in her capacity in that job, and I congratulate you on being before us today.
Mr. Stevens, who will serve as the assistant secretary of HUD for housing and federal housing commissioner, is president and COO of the Long and Foster companies, and comes with a deep understanding of the mortgage industry. It is highly regarded and highly supported, I might say, in my own state of Connecticut. People involved in the housing area, in fact, specifically broke it up, brought it up to the -- Secretary Donovan when he was in my state two weeks ago for a day, you know, visiting people, and out of the audience people stood up and highly commended him for choosing you to do this job, not something you normally hear about nominees in a process, but there's a lot of excitement about you taking this job. I want you to know that as well.
Mr. Kovar, who will serve as the assistant secretary of HUD for Congressional Affairs has executive experience on Capital Hill, which includes his chief of staff to Congressman Barney Frank, the chairman of the Financial Services Committee. So you bring a lot of experience and knowledge, and we welcome you as well.
Mr. Trasvina, who will serve as assistant secretary of HUD overseeing fair housing and equal opportunity programs, has deep experience working on Capital Hill and in immigration and civil rights policy. As we celebrate National Fair Housing Month, I'm very pleased to welcome you here before the committee.
And lastly, I would like to welcome the nominee for the assistant secretary of the Treasury, of terrorist financing, Mr. Cohen. If confirmed, your work could impact, or would impact, our nation's major security challenges, including nuclear proliferation, international terrorism, drugs and arms trafficking, and piracy on the high seas, a matter that we're all more than familiar with in the result of the events of the last few weeks.
Since the creation of -- just five years ago -- the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence has played an invaluable role in protecting our national security. In fact, the 9-11 Commission gave the U.S. government its only A minus in the category of combating terrorism financing, yet much work still remains to be done using the tools this committee has afforded. Treasury in recent years, including legislation that I and members of this committee authored in 2007 to increase penalties against sanctions violators and the USAID Patriot Act of 2001 -- TFI will continue to play an important part in denying funds that promotes Iran's nuclear program trafficking -- tracking activities of global terrorism and halting money laundering and international, domestic organized crime.
Mr. Cohen will provide invaluable assistance to Undersecretary Levy and Secretary Geithner in managing this critical operation, bring with him years of experience at both the Treasury and working with the law firm of Wilmer Hale.
Again, I welcome all of our nominees. It's an awful lot of you, and frankly, I would prefer to be dealing this with you individually. That would be the way to do this. But obviously, given the sense of urgency in getting people in place, it's something I think all of us can appreciate and support.
I mentioned earlier of supporting this President and nominees. I've been a member of the United States for some 28 years. I can count on one hand the number of nominees that I've opposed over that time, of Republican and Democratic administrations. I don't believe it's a time for people to inject the opposition, their ideological framework. Presidents' elections have meaning, and if a President gets elected, he or she deserves to have the teams in place to help them execute their policies and their promises to the American people.
I do think we have an obligation to examine nominees on other matters that -- affecting their capacity to serve. But my general view has been that -- to support nominees when that occurs, and again, I would prefer to have done this in a more deliberate fashion with each of you in front of rather than having a panel of this size. But again, given the exigencies of getting people in place, given the economic circumstances we're facing, it is what it is, and so I -- we're conducting the hearing in this manner.
What I'd like to do -- and again, I -- our colleagues are here. Mr. Sims, you have both of our colleagues from the State of Washington here. And let me turn to them very quickly, and then the chairman of the Financial Services Committee to make his introductions. And so I thank both of my colleagues, Senator Cantwell, Senator Murray for being here.
SEN. DODD: Yes, and Congressman -- (inaudible). How are you, by the way? Welcome.
REP.: (Off-mike). Thank you.
SEN. DODD: Seeing all these congressmen sitting at this committee makes us nervous in the Senate. (Laughter.) I want you to know that we are -- I know the House members would like to have something akin to a term of office that did not coincide with Senate elections. (Laughter.) I suspect that would pass overwhelmingly in the House and have a very difficult time in the Senate -- (laughter) -- I want you know. Anyway, welcome. We're delighted to have you here.
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D-MA).: Well, everything has a very difficult time.
SEN. DODD: Everything has a very -- (laughter) -- I know. Having been a member of the other body, I can appreciate that point of view as well.
To my colleague, Senator Murray -- (inaudible).
SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D-WA): Okay. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and to all the members of the committee, and I'm pleased to be here today with Senator Cantwell to introduce Ron Sims, who is our King County executive at this very important hearing. I know his wife, Cayan (ph), could not be here, but he is accompanied by some family members, a brother-in-law and niece, I believe, and I know his family is very excited about this opportunity for him. I want to personally congratulate Ron on the honor of being President Obama's nominee to serve as the next deputy secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Ron and his family are no strangers to public service, and I want to thank them for once again answering the call at this pivotal time in our nation's history. As chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, I know firsthand HUD's important mission to support community development, increase access to affordable housing, and help house families in nee. From those struggling families to our nation's veterans, HUD services often mean the difference between the despair on the streets and the safety and security of a home.
But today HUD faces challenges as daunting as at any other time in the agency's nearly 45-year history as a Cabinet-level agency.
Millions of Americans have lost their homes to foreclosure, and as unemployment continues to rise, millions more are at risk. I have been reassured by the dedication and leadership shown by Secretary Donovan over the past three months, but given the magnitude of this housing crisis, Secretary Donovan cannot do it alone. And that's why I am so pleased that the President has tapped Ron Sims to provide his leadership and experience as deputy secretary at HUD.
Throughout his 12-year career as King County executive, Ron Sims has been a strong leader for our state and the people of King County. He has always faced challenges head-on, and has always been open to consider new, innovative policies to improve the lives of the families in King County. He's been a true pioneer in housing policy, but I want to focus on three examples that illustrate his readiness to immediately step in and step up to tackle HUD's challenges.
First of all, Ron knows that making progress requires partnerships. As King County executive, Ron has worked to build strong, diverse community partnerships that address many of the housing needs in King County. These partnerships have helped leverage the resources of the county to create thousands of new, affordable housing units and preserve and improve existing housing stock. Ron has helped to establish and currently serves as co-chair of the Committee to End Homelessness. That is a regional partnership that has helped to add more than 3,000 housing units for the homeless in King County.
This experience is going to be critical at HUD, an agency that depends on partnerships with everyone from the largest Cabinet agencies to the smallest community boards to extend housing opportunities and communities across the nation. Another central part of HUD's mission is the promise to provide housing to all those who need it, free from discrimination and prejudice. And as the people of King County well know, Ron Sims is an uncompromising champion of equal rights. In fact, he recently led an effort to establish the King County Equity and Social Justice Initiative that brings together community leaders to root out discrimination and improve access to education, healthcare, and affordable housing.
And finally, HUD will most certainly benefit from Ron's steadfast commitment to smart community development. When it comes to environmental protection, expanding transit, and managing growth, Ron has always been ahead of the curve. He has worked hard on initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint of King County, expand transit service, and has been a tireless advocate for smart growth management policies that have helped to establish synergies across county programs and services.
Mr. Chairman, members of this committee, this is a great time of challenges for HUD, but it is also a time of great opportunity. Today we have the chance to refocus the agency's efforts on meeting the needs of low-income families and to renew its commitment to be a lifeline for those in dire straights. Innovative ideas, strong leadership, dedication to equality are what HUD needs to move in a new direction, and those are all skills that Ron Sims brings to the table.
So I appreciate this opportunity to participate in this hearing, and I look forward to working with this committee as it moves forward on this nomination. Thank you.
SEN. DODD: Senator, thank you very much.
SEN. MARIA CANTWELL (D-WA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you and members of the committee for holding this important hearing. I am pleased to be here with my colleague, Senator Murray, to help introduce King County executive Ron Sims. I urge my colleagues to swiftly confirm him as the next deputy secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Ron Sims is just the person we need to work on the full spectrum of housing issues from promoting home ownership to making sure we have adequate supply of affordable rental housing, to addressing the special needs of homeless neighbors.
I've known Ron Sims for more than 20 years, and I know he really knows affordable housing from a hands-on perspective. And more importantly, he knows how to manage effectively when resources are tight.
In his 13 years as King County executive, Ron has worked to reform government, to move past the status quo, to provide for our communities, and this is just what HUD needs now. As HUD's point person on housing assistance and affordable housing programs, he'll be responsible for making sure that families in most need are well served.
In 2003, I worked personally with Ron to prevent the closure of Branch Villa Healthcare Center. The Branch Villa Healthcare Center, now known as Leon Sullivan Healthcare Center, is a nursing home that provides services to King County seniors, most of whom are African- American. When the property faced foreclosure by HUD, we did all that we could at the federal and state level to work with the resources to make sure that this transfer of ownership to a nonprofit group was done so that the center's doors could remain open.
This success was more than just projecting a facility. It was about protecting our community seniors and striving to provide the best for our communities. This is just the example of how Ron Sims operates. He cares about the community and works collaboratively to solve problems. He understands HUD and he understands housing issues.
Ron will also bring his smart, business-oriented approach to the Department. He will ensure that the limited resources are used efficiently to meet the agency's critical mission. As King County executive, he was instrumental in maintaining a balanced budget and earning the country's highest available credit rating. In 2006, Ron was recognized as the public official of the year by Government Magazine, and in 2008, they named him one of America's most innovative leaders.
Now he brings all that energy to HUD at a time when we need it most. So I'm glad that President Obama has recognized Ron Sims' innovative spirit, and I know it's that kind of visionary leadership that we need alongside Secretary Donovan at this critical agency at this critical point.
So I encourage my colleagues to support quickly his nomination. Thank you.
SEN. DODD: Senator Cantwell, thank you very much, thank both of our senators from Washington.
And let me turn, if I can, to our visiting colleagues here from the other body, and the chairman of the Financial Services Committee -- Barney, we're delighted to have you here this morning.
REP. FRANK: Thank you.
SEN. DODD: And Congressman Schiff as well. I wanted to welcome you as well.
(Rep. Frank off-mike.)
SEN. DODD: Is that on, Barney, your microphone there? You've got to -- okay.
REP. FRANK: No, it wasn't. Okay. I really have appreciated the chance to work with you, senator, and I think we've done a lot and we will be able to do a lot more in what's been a very good relationship between our two committees.
I will say I had a very sad moment yesterday. As I was leaving my office, I walked past the desk of Peter Kovar, who's been my chief of staff, and it was blank, and --
SEN. DODD: (Laughs.)
REP. FRANK: -- I learned that I was going to have to -- I realized I was going to have to learn to live without him. He is enormously talented. Actually, he comes to this job with both substantive knowledge, having worked as my chief of staff for over 20 years, having had some experience in the Senate. He is fully familiar with the substantive matter that comes before this committee, because members will know your chief of staff inevitably becomes fully involved in the work of the committees, and particularly, these past few years when I became the ranking member in 2003, my sole committee assignment has been this committee.
So he knows a great deal about it. We do a little on the side.
I will say, Mr. Chairman, that if a question involving fishing should come up at HUD, he's an expert on that, 'cause I represent New Bedford. (Laughter.) But in terms of the -- both the Treasury and HUD areas, he is extremely well equipped substantively, and in terms of -- you know, one of the things that you're going to have to do, obviously, in the job of being assistant secretary of Congressional Affairs is to deal with members of Congress with all of their quirks and eccentricities and personal difficulties, and I should think the fact that he's been my chief of staff for 28 years would satisfy any doubts on that score -- (laughter) -- that he will be able to --
SEN. DODD: And that's just the House side you're talking about. (Laughs.)
REP. FRANK: Yes, that's -- yes, I agree. And so I'm delighted to have the chance, and I really appreciate the President's appointing him. I'm delighted also to see these other members. Let me say that I've also known and worked with Mr. Hochberg in a variety of capacities, and I agree with you. We could get more out of the Export/Import Bank than we have had, and I look forward to working with you to see that that's done.
But I commend the President on a great group of nominees, and obviously, we look forward to working with them as they take their place. And as I said, in Peter Kovar -- if you told someone that he had to train for 20 years to be the assistant secretary of HUD for Congressional Relations, he would've done very much what Peter Kovar has done.
SEN.: Mr. Chairman --
SEN. DODD: Thank you very much, and by the way, we have a statement from Senator Kennedy regarding, Peter, your nomination as well, and I know Senator Kerry, in fact, is going to try and get over as well and be heard on your nomination, and I know Ms. Kanovsky's as well, so put those in the record as well, but thank you very, very much.
Senator Schumer, we'll jump to you because you have a hearing to go to, and do you mind waiting a few minutes, Congressman Schiff?
SEN ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA).: No.
SEN. DODD: Thank you.
SEN. CHARLES E. SCHUMER (D-NY): Thank you, and first, I want to say before I introduce Fred Hochberg, who I'm proud to introduce to my colleagues, Peter, Barney said it would be okay if we voted you down.
SEN. DODD: Yeah. (Laughter.)
REP. FRANK: So much for telling a senator anything in confidence.
SEN. DODD: Yeah. (Laughter.)
SEN. SCHUMER: I told Barney that he usually gets his way with his -- with this committee, but not this time.
SEN. DODD: Yeah. (Laughter.)
SEN. SCHUMER: Anyway, it's my honor to introduce Fred Hochberg, a good friend of mine and to many of the committee. Fred's an accomplished businessman and public servant, and I'm just so delighted to support his nomination to head the Export/Import Bank. I've known Freddie for many, many years, and he is capable, dedicated, has a great business career, but always wants to be in public service. He really cares about making this country a better place.
He's a great fit for the position because it's about creating and supporting American jobs. That's what the Ex-Im Bank's all about. And he knows how to do it. He spent two decades of his career with the Lillian Vernon Corporation. This was founded by his mother. She was an immigrant who fled Nazi Germany. She founded it with $2,000 wedding gift money. Under Fred's leadership, the company was transformed from a small mail order company to a wildly successful, publicly traded direct marketing corporation that employs more than 1,000 people.
From Lillian Vernon, Fred moved to found and serve as President of Heyday. That's an investment firm that manages real estate and venture capital. And then he came to Washington in 1994. He joined the Clinton Administration as deputy administrator and then acting of the SBA. As we all know, small business are the engines of growth here in our economy, and again, his business experience, his small business governmental experience, as well as being dean of the Milano School at the -- dean of the Milano School at The New School, gives him an academic background as well.
He's always been involved in the community. He and his longtime partner, my friend, Tom Healy, (ph) who I don't see here today -- he's not here, Fred --
MR. HOCHBERG: He's in Africa.
SEN. SCHUMER: -- he's in Africa, okay, teaching -- are active in numerous philanthropical and civil rights groups, and I want to thank them, what they've done to improve the lives of so many New Yorkers. So it's clear to me that Fred possesses the entrepreneurial spirit, the sense of civic duty, and the chutzpah necessary -- (laughter) -- you're not supposed to laugh -- that's part of the English language these days -- (laughter) -- to excel as head of the Export/Import Bank. So I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to speak, and I hope the committee will approve Fred's nomination unanimously given his broad, wide, and deep credentials, and Freddie, congratulations on the nomination.
SEN. DODD: Senator, thank you very much, and let me turn to Representative Schiff for Trasvina, senator -- Mr. Trasvina's nomination as well.
Congressman, welcome. (Inaudible.)
SEN. SCHIFF: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. These are wonderful seats, but don't worry, I won't get too comfortable in them. (Laughter.)
SEN. SCHIFF: Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Shelby, and other members of the committee, I would like to introduce you to President Obama's nominee for assistant secretary of the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, FHEO, a dedicated public servant, an accomplished lawyer, Mr. John Trasvina.
John, a proud resident of Pasadena, California, has spent his life fighting for justice, working passionately as an advocate for civil rights. He has intimate experience with the inner workings of the executive and legislative branches, which will serve him well in his new post.
John worked on the Hill and made his mark in civil rights legislation as the general council and staff director of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution. His experience and expertise caught the eye of many around Washington, and in 1997, John was appointed by President Clinton and confirmed unanimously to have the federal government's only office devoted solely to immigrant rights. There he worked to enforce anti-discrimination provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act. This experience will be particularly helpful at FHEO, where he will oversee the implementation and enforcement of the Fair Housing Act and other civil rights laws.
After his time in D.C., he made his way to the West Coast as President and general council at the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, or MALDEF. There John gained invaluable experience managing a large and diverse organization with five offices around the country, working closely with a diverse range of organizations, including corporations, as well as non-profits.
I ask that you include a letter of support from the Pasadena police chief, Bernie Melekian, in the record. In Pasadena John worked closely with the police department advising the police chief and the city council on education, issues involving Hispanic community, city service.
He is a leader in our region not only for the Latino community, but he has worked across all communities for the common good and was awarded the President's award by the Pasadena NAACP in 2008.
I strongly support John Trasvina's appointment as assistant secretary for the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. He has the knowledge, experience, and expertise to succeed. He has a passion for protecting Americans from discrimination, preserving their civil rights, and I'm convinced he will enforce the Fair Housing Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and other measures under his jurisdiction justly with great dedication and heart. His experience in the Administration and here in Congress, as well as his relationship with a diverse set of outside organizations prepares him well for the path ahead.
John, we're tremendously proud of you, and we wish you every success. And I urge his favorable consideration.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. DODD: Thank you, congressman, very much. We appreciate your coming over and participating today as well. Very grateful to you for doing that.
Senator Warner, you've got a nominee as well, and we want to -- so if you'd like to spend a few minutes -- (inaudible) --
SEN. MARK R. WARNER (D-VA): I appreciate that, Mr. Chairman, and let me, first of all, welcome the whole panel and say congratulations on your nominations and hopefully your speedy approvals. I'm here to introduce a fellow Virginian, David Stevens, who is -- the President has nominated to be assistant secretary of Housing and FHA commissioner. I know David is here with his wife, Mary, and some of his family, and I think he'll present them as well.
I was happy to hear that when you were up with Secretary Donovan in Connecticut that David's reputation has extended to the nutmeg state in terms of people's stepping forward, and I think that because David brings a unique set of experiences to this new challenge. He has been President and chief operating officer in the Long and Foster companies, a multifaceted real estate firm located in Virginia, but has holdings around the region and the country. He has served as vice president at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Division where he's been obviously involved in issues intimately connected with the mortgage challenge.
He's been vice president of single family housing at Freddie Mac and had a16-year tenure at the World Savings Bank. He, in addition, brings, I think, as we particularly look at the challenges of restarting our housing industry at this point -- and making sure that we truly have a fair housing approach. He was a founding executive sponsor of the Woman's Mortgage Industry Network, and during his tenure at Freddie Mac initiated some of the first outreach activities to the Latino community.
So all of this broad background has clearly extended beyond the reaches of Virginia in terms of the interest in his nomination, and I'm particularly anxious to have him come on board, because, as I'm sure you've found with Secretary Donovan, we've -- a lot of new initiatives the President has outlined -- but as homeowners try to get the next level of detail down so they can actually take advantage of some of these initiatives, we're still seeing some lag time from the Department to get these initiatives -- the details out so that people can fully take advantage of them. And David -- I know his speedy confirmation will help that process along.
I would add a couple of other quick individual notes. I have some trepidation seeing David again here today because as he was considering this, David and Mary and I were having dinner one night -- an event -- and he shared the fact that he was considering this, and to leave the private sector where he is doing extraordinarily well to come back and take this challenge again in the public sector -- he was weighing that. I'm glad that you have weighed the decision and made the choice as a family to take on this challenge again. Your services will be well needed and well regarded.
So I welcome you. I welcome the rest of the panel. Two other quick items -- one is let me add my voice to the introductions of at least two of the members who've been talked about, Fred Hochberg and Ron Sims. I know the whole panel's great, but I've had personal experience with both Fred and Ron, and I know they will be excellent additions to the President's team.
And on a personal note -- and I'll get some grief for this later -- I think when Adam came in, he brought his daughter. This is also bring your daughter to work day. So I have my -- she's going to cringe behind the chair back here -- (laughter) -- my youngest daughter, Eliza, who is a freshman in high school attending today. I would only note that she was very excited about this opportunity to come because she thought she could miss school. She was really bummed out when she heard that I was starting with an 8:00 breakfast with Barney Frank and that we'd have to leave even earlier than she normally goes to school, so -- (laughter) -- she -- and I think you'll see a lot of other kids and daughters particularly running around the Hill today.
So thank you, Mr. Chairman. David, we welcome you and look forward to your confirmation.
SEN. DODD: Senator Warner, thank you very, very much, and I mentioned earlier Senator Kerry wanted to be here. When he comes in, we'll give him an opportunity if he can, and the schedules are very tight, as I know you're aware, Helen -- this -- but certainly his comments on your behalf will be included in the record at the very least in all of this. And I thank my colleagues for doing this.
I want to turn to my colleague, Senator Shelby, for any opening comments he may have, and then I'm going to turn to my colleagues here for any comments they may have. I'll swear in our witnesses. And I want to thank in advance Senator Warner, who's going to take over the chair for the nomination process so I can get to the floor, and there's a debate going on on some matters that affect the jurisdiction of this committee.
SEN.: (Inaudible) --
SEN. WARNER: You know, I had the opportunity to work with Senator Dodd as a young man, and, you know, he promised great things. I didn't think after only 100 days here that I would get to sit in the chair, though -- (laughter) -- so, you know, I'm --
SEN. DODD: Yeah, I'm taking the gavel with me when I leave -- (inaudible). (Laughter.) Because having known Mark for a long time, I might never get it back, so -- (laughs) --
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R-AL): Oh, I'll be very quick. I'm just here to support all of you. I think we got some outstanding nominees, and I -- the sooner we move these nominees, Mr. Chairman, the better, and from the Republican side, I think we want to get everybody in place and have the Administration going full blast, okay?
SEN. DODD: I thank you. Thank you very much.
Colleague Jack, do you have any comments?
SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): No.
SEN. DODD: Senator Johanns, any comments you'd like to -- you know what it's like to sit at that table as well, having been a nominee (for the Cabinet ?).
SEN. MIKE JOHANNS (R-NE): I do know what it's like.
SEN. DODD: So you bring a special appreciation of sitting on both sides of this dais.
SEN. JOHANNS: I do. I'll offer just a thought, because I don't think I can stay for the whole hearing. But I don't want to prolong this, Mr. Chairman, that it was about four years ago that I sat where you sat. I was nominated to be the secretary of Agriculture. Kind of an intimidating experience, but I would say this. None of you have to be intimidated by this. You're enormously qualified to do this job. Can't imagine they'll be any problems with your confirmation whatsoever, unless something were to pop up, but you just -- it looks great. (Laughter.
SEN. JOHANNS: There's always that, if -- (laughter) -- that but. I'd offer a thought, though, because, like I said, I probably do have to leave the hearing. I'll just offer a word of advice in terms of taking on your new assignments, because I think you can look forward to that. I would urge you to work in a very bipartisan way. I quickly found out that it was not acceptable for me to go into a Senate office or a House office and explain to them that I inherited the problem. They wanted me to solve the problem. And if it was in their district, they really wanted me to solve the problem. They were not interested in excuses or explanations as to why I didn't cause the problem.
The other thing I would say to you is no matter how good you are -- and you're all enormously gifted and qualified even in what you're doing now. You're going to leave problems behind for the next person. It's the nature of life. I'm guessing, Mr. Sims, in King County there's still homeless people. There's still inadequate housing. But you can't be blamed for that. What you can be held responsible for is good management and solid determination to get the job done. So I really encourage all of you to focus on that.
Personally, I'm anxious to work with all of you. These are important issues that you're working on, everything from terrorism to housing -- my goodness -- and everything in between. Look at us as a partner, and my hope is that we can have a very, very solid, good working relationship, and godspeed and good luck to all of you.
SEN. DODD: Thank you very much, senator.
SEN. JOHANNS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. DODD: Senator Merkley, you want to make a comment on this?
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I wanted to come and thank all of you for making this commitment to public service. Housing is something that has --
SEN. MERKLEY: -- been very much apart of my background as director of Habitat for Humanity in Portland, Oregon, later a developer -- affordable housing, later an advocate in the legislature for both strong rental assistance programs, decent housing, and for home ownership. I think that this is -- housing is the foundation of the American dream. It's often in terms of home ownership the foundation of families' financial success. There's a lot of work to be done, and we're under difficult circumstances with the budget we face. Far more families will be seeking assistance, needing assistance, and we'll be in more challenged national fiscal circumstances in terms of providing that assistance.
So certainly, my team, my staff team, looks forward to working with you, I look forward to working with you, and godspeed.
SEN. DODD: Senator, thank you very, very much. And I wanted to note, by the way, in -- Diane Farrell is in the audience, and this is -- works with the Export/Import Bank and from Connecticut, and was confirmed by this committee earlier. So we welcome you to the committee. And I wanted to recognize -- there's an awful lot of people in the room and I suspect an awful lot of the various staffs from HUD, from Ex-Im, and from Treasury, and not all of them ever get to sit at this dais and to be confirmed for a post get to make statements.
But the people who just do every day -- do a remarkable job on behalf of the citizenry of this country never get enough recognition, in my view, for the tremendous hours and efforts they make. And I forget to mention that from time to time, but I thought today recognizing -- and I know a lot of people from the various agencies are here in support of these nominees and to offer whatever assistance they can. And I'm confident I speak for every one of us up here, how much we appreciate the work that gets done by civil servants in this country throughout our government who work hard, long after the regular hours of every day, to make this country function. And we need you more than ever, obviously, at a time like this. So I want to thank all of you here in the room who don't get to sit at this table and to be a nominee and be confirmed, but in a sense, all of us want to confirm every day how much we appreciate what you do.
And with that, I'm going to ask our witnesses to rise and to raise your right hands and take an oath, if you would, please. Do you swear or affirm that the testimony that you're about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you god?
PANEL: (I do ?).
SEN. DODD: And do you agree to appear and testify before any duly constituted committee of the United States Senate?
PANEL: (I do ?).
SEN. DODD: I thank you very much. And that will begin -- Mr. Sims, Ron Sims, will begin in the order that you're at the table here, and I'm going to ask all of you to try and keep your remarks relatively brief if you can. Any supporting data and information you think would be helpful for this committee to have and in support of your nomination will be certainly -- I'll accept at this point, and so you don't have to -- you can just send it to us. And there may be a period of a few days after your testimony here to respond to some questions from members who for whatever reason couldn't be here, but would like to raise some issues. And I urge you to respond to those questions as quickly as you possible can so we can move your nominations forward. And we'll leave the record open for that purpose.
And with that, Mr. Sims, we welcome you, and I welcome all of -- again, the members of the panel.
MR. SIMS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Shelby, and distinguished members of the committee. I am honored and humbled by the decision of President Obama and Secretary Donovan to nominate me as deputy secretary of Housing and Urban Development. I want to thank the committee for making the time in your busy schedules to provide this opportunity for us to share our thoughts and views regarding housing and urban development at this critical time in this country.
For over 12 years, I have been proud to serve as the elected executive of the nation's 14th largest county, managing an annual budget of $5 billion and a workforce of 14,000 employees delivering local and regional services to 1.8 million people. Throughout my career, I have championed regional efforts to develop affordable and supportive housing, end homelessness, improve blighted neighborhoods and create opportunities for home ownership. But I've also balanced those priorities with the need to reduce congestion, improve mobility, protect our environment, and address inequities and injustices in our region.
President Obama and Secretary Donovan and Congress have all voiced a clear expectation that HUD can and must now step up to the unprecedented levels of leadership in America's national recovery.
SEN. DODD: Is that microphone on? Is your microphone on? (Off mike) -- more closely to you -- (off mike).
MR. SIMS: The roles facing HUD today include stabilizing the housing market, alleviating homelessness, creating healthy housing stock and vibrant and sustainable urban and rural communities. To do this, HUD must take a collaborative approach and work to leverage federal action with other agencies, including transportation, Treasury, energy, health and human services, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency. This interagency leadership will only be possible if HUD as an organization is fully functional and focused on meaningful and measurable outcomes. I am ready for the challenge put before me by President Obama and Secretary Donovan to bring transformational change to HUD. I believe my management experience in King County and our standing as a world class, regional government can serve as a relevant model for HUD.
It has not always been easy, but with many large organizations dramatic reforms in areas like information technology and human resources is sorely needed. And by creating a cross-disciplinary team orientation and providing managers with effective tools and support, we have worked together to set King County on the right course.
More recently, King County has institutionalized a system of data-driven management that brings evidence to decision makers when they need it most. We have published these results through an award- winning report that underscores our commitment to accountability and to transparency.
And we have looked beyond the silos of our government organization to help us in achieving these results. At King County we have built strategic partnerships similar to the national network of partners Secretary Donovan outlined in his confirmation testimony. I believe deeply in the power of this vision, working with a range of local governments, housing authorities, foundations, nonprofits and private developers who will join HUD in implementing its priorities.
Like our departments in King County, HUD's organization must work, and it must serve not simply as a pass/fail bureaucracy. It must be a creative engine of ideas, actions, and tools in which employees, partners, and our customers are all empowered to implement a shared vision of the future.
In sum, we must be ready with a smoothly running organization at all levels, from local to federal leaders, to take on the challenges before us. HUD must be accountable, transparent, and affective as a major agent of oversight for TARP and a primary decision maker in how recovery funds will be spent. We must ease the foreclosure crisis and lay the foundation of homeownership, affordability, and stability, and we must chart a course for a sustainable community's vision, one in which our urban and rural areas are more vibrant, sustainable, and resilient.
Mr. Chairman, Senator Shelby, and members of this distinguished committee, thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you today. I firmly believe that under Secretary Donovan's leadership and with ongoing input from Congress, we can transform HUD into a catalyst for economic opportunity and ensuring every American a decent, safe, and suitable living environment.
I would also wish to acknowledge, if you will let me, the incredible work being done by Senators Murray and Senator Cantwell. They are extraordinary public officials. They do great work in our community and our state, and they are icons. But they serve at a national level as well, so we appreciate all they are as senators.
And I would be remiss if I didn't thank my niece from Bellingham, Washington for being here today, and my brother-in-law from College Park, Maryland for being here today. The rest of the family is back in Seattle. I look forward to being able to serve this nation.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. DODD: Thank you, Mr. Sims. We look forward to your service, and it -- you've got quite a record at the local level, and I know we can bring that to bear here at the national level.
MR. HOCHBERG: Thank you. I'd like to just introduce my brother, who is David Hochberg a few rows back. And as Senator Schumer mentioned, my mother is out of the country, and my partner, Tom Healy (ph), is teaching a course in Africa. So I wanted to acknowledge them. I want to also thank Senator Schumer for his very generous introduction and thank you, Senator Warner, and also Barney Frank for your comments.
Chairman Dodd, Senator Shelby, members of the committee, I'm honored to appear before you today to testify regarding my nomination to be President and chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. I'm grateful to President Obama for the trust he has placed in me, and I want to thank the committee for the prompt scheduling of this hearing.
I bring 30 years experience in business, government, international affairs and education. If confirmed, I would immediately begin working on the challenges facing Ex-Im Bank, in particular, and most importantly, the U.S. economy in general.
In preparing for this hearing, I've been able to develop an initial understanding of Ex-Im Bank's policies and procedures. It's very clear that Ex-Im's mandate is to protect and sustain U.S. jobs. The bank does this by helping U.S. exporters meet foreign competition and stepping in when commercial financing is not available for otherwise viable transactions. The bank keeps a watchful eye on taxpayer money by acting only when it can find a reasonable assurance of repayment.
Mr. Chairman, I do not have to tell any member of this committee that these are not ordinary times. But Ex-Im Bank is at its best in times such as these. Why do I feel this way? Ex-Im Bank, established 75 years ago by President Roosevelt during the Great Depression, has the capacity to step up now, as it did then. The bank plays an integral role in the implementation of the Marshall Plan. It also helped our country meet the Latin American and Asian debt crises of the 1980s and '90s.
Past is prologue. I believe Ex-Im Bank needs to do more and can do more in the months and years ahead. First, total bank business has already shown a significant increase in the range of 20 percent over last year. As Secretary Geithner said yesterday, our country's economic recovery depends on reversing the steep decline in exports. Moreover, for the first time in its history, the bank has authorized over $1 billion for the support of small businesses in the first six months of this year.
Second, I've had an opportunity to meet with a number of Ex-Im Bank career employees, and I've come away impressed, impressed with their dedication, with their expertise, and impressed with their competence. Third, my time as deputy and acting administrator of the Small Business Administration, dean of Milano, The New School, for management urban policy, as well as my experience as a commissioner on the Port Authority for New York, New Jersey has prepared me for this challenge.
But I'm also prepared because of my experience in the private sector and my personal life. I come to this position as a businessman. I have run a business founded by my mother, who came to this country at age ten as a refugee from Nazi Germany. That business, Lillian Vernon, grew from our kitchen table into a public company with thousands of employees doing business around the world.
I know firsthand what it takes to make a small, family-owned enterprise succeed and how difficult that can be. And I also know firsthand that our economy relies on entrepreneurs for innovation and growth. And I want to help them succeed in any way the bank can.
If confirmed, I fully commit to actively searching for new policy initiatives and solutions to problems in order to move the bank forward, streamlining our servers, eliminating bottlenecks, and providing top-notch customer service to all our constituents, be they American exporters or the banks that support them.
I will do this by consulting with our stakeholders in labor, exporting, and banking, working closely with our colleagues in the Administration, strengthening our support for small businesses and environmentally sound exports, and, of course, keeping in close contact with this committee and the rest of Congress as we navigate through these difficult times.
Ex-Im Bank is the right agency at the right place at the right time. In closing, I ask your support for my nomination. Thank you. I'd be happy to answer your questions.
SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): Mr. Chairman?
SEN. DODD: Senator Reed.
SEN. REED: Mr. Chairman, I think we have a vote pending shortly, and I'm going to have to depart, but I particularly want to welcome all the witnesses, but a special hello to Fred Hochberg for his great community service over many, many years, and Peter Kovar and I had an occasion to work together in the House. We both worked for Barney Frank, so we both have a -- (laughter) -- wonderful wealth of experience to go forward. And I've had occasion to individually meet with some of the nominees, and this is a very distinguished group of individuals, and I wish you well. And you're headed to difficult challenges, which you'll all face.
And thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. WARNER: Thank you, Senator Reed, and thank you, Fred, for your comments, and I would -- I know we all will have some questions for the record. I do think you're taking on a very important challenge with an institution that's got a number of challenges in front of it, some allegations in terms of -- that have been lodged against -- that you'll need to address, as well as some abilities, particularly on the lending side, to do some things in support of small business that we hope you'll explore.
Well, I know and I appreciate that this is all of your special day. And many of you have brought family and others. We are going to have a vote about 11:45. That means that I can probably stay for about another ten minutes after that, but about five minutes to 12:00 I turn into a pumpkin as well, so I would request if possible on the -- at least in terms of getting us our -- all the opening statements out that we, if you could, try to reduce your statements to two to three minutes apiece. That would be very helpful.
MS. KANOVSKY: Okay, and I'll also speak fast. (Laughter.)
Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the committee, thank you for consider my nomination and for the opportunity to appear before you today. With me today is my daughter, Emily Dorfman (ph), and my brother and sister-in-law, Martin Kanovsky and Ellen Teller (ph), as well as their daughter, my niece, Allison Kanovsky. My daughter, Jennifer Dorfman, (ph) is an emergency room doctor in Pittsburgh and had to be there saving lives today.
I'm honored to have been nominated by President Obama to be the general council of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. I also want to thank Secretary Donovan for asking me to serve as general council to the Department. Secretary Donovan is an extraordinary public servant and an extraordinary man, and I will be thrilled to have the opportunity to advise him and his team.
I am particularly honored to appear before you here in the Senator Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing room, where my interest in housing began a little more than 35 years ago. There were a number of interesting hearings occurring the summer of 1973. That was the beginning of the Watergate hearings. But there were also hearings before this committee. There was no CSPAN, no CNN, and for good or ill, there were no televisions in the Senate offices. If a senator wanted to know what was going on on the floor or in a committee hearing and could not be there personally, the senators sent a staffer.
I was the most junior member for the senator 100th in seniority and a member at that time of this committee, Joseph Biden of Delaware. (Laughter.) Chairman Proxmier held a hearing on manufactured housing, mobile homes, and I still remember the film the committee showed showing people's homes blowing away. I went back to Senator Biden's office, and as only a 21-year-old can, told him the government needed to do something.
Now, 35 years later, there is a stronger storm, a financial tsunami that threatens not just our housing finance system, but our entire economy. Again, the government needs to act, and I hope to be part of that government. I went from Senator Biden's staff to the Harvard Law School, and after a short time in private practice, I went to HUD as special assistant to Secretary Patricia Roberts-Harris. I then went with her to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, which became the Department of Health and Human Services.
After a stint in the private practice of law, I went to Skyline Financial Services, which was created by the United States Bankruptcy Court, to do a $1.5 billion workout that was the precursor to this savings and loan collapse nationwide. We dealt with a $1.5 billion loss, and we thought that that was significant. And we had only 20,000 properties to dispose of. We successfully wound down the inventory of houses and concluded the bankruptcy -- we positioned ourselves to do business with the Resolution Trust Corporation, and at that point GE Capital bought the business, and that's exactly what we did.
With that work completed, I left GE Capital and joined the AFL- CIO Housing Investment Trust in 1995 as general council. I also began a long association the National Housing Conference, of which I currently serve as chair. In 1998 to '99, I was here as Senator John Kerry's chief of staff when he served on this committee and as ranking minority member of the Housing Subcommittee.
I returned to the Housing Investment Trust in 1999 where I served in various capacities where I'm currently chief operating officer and general council. I am proud of my many years at the HIT. The trust is a registered investment company and operates pursuant to the rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission. We deploy our $3.4 billion in investment in housing. We do not employ leverage, and we've never invested in subprime single family loans. Last year, our gross return was 5.68 percent, and we are a conservative fund pursuing competitive returns for our investors, good union jobs in the construction industry, housing and economic development in communities across the nation.
Only government service would entice me to leave. I am a lawyer, a manager, a policy wonk, and a believer that now more than ever housing is where policy, regulation, financial institutions, capital markets, prophet and nonprofit developers, builders and workers join to provide not necessarily a house, but a home for every American family.
We celebrate this year the 60th anniversary of the Housing Act of 1949. That act set a goal of, quote, "a decent home and suitable living environment for every American." The senators and representatives who wrote that language meant it. The housing crisis, the foreclosure crisis, are enormous challenges to that goal, but they bring us to a new focus on housing and public policy and provide a forum to once more enunciate the goal and commit to its achievement. It would be an honor and a privilege to serve as general counsel of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you and the committee once again for this opportunity to appear before you, and I'm prepared to answer any questions you may have.
SEN. WARNER: Thank you, Ms. Kanovsky.
MR. STEVENS: Thank you, Senator Warner. Thank you for your kind introduction. I'm honored to be here today and humbled by President Obama and Secretary Donovan's decision to nominate me as assistant secretary of Housing, FHA commissioner for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. And I also appreciate you scheduling this hearing so quickly after the recess. Before I begin, I just want to quickly introduce my wife Mary, my daughter Sara, Allison, Maggie, and my son, Taylor, who have joined me here today, take your child to work day.
For the past 26 years, I have dedicated my career to the business of helping support and working in the housing finance industry. My career has taken me from working directly with home buyers for Savings and Loan Association in the early 1980s to managing a nationwide loan operation. I've held executive leadership role in the secondary market as senior vice president at Freddie Mac, working with virtually every financial institution in the mortgage industry, mortgage insurance firms, technology providers, Wall Street and industry trade organizations. I've managed the wholesale mortgage banking business as executive vice president for Wells Fargo, and am currently the President of the nation's largest privately held real estate company.
FHA has become critical to the stabilization and recovery of the housing market. The recent surge in loan activity clearly highlights FHA's importance as a primary vehicle to strengthening housing. But the pressure of this growth has clearly stressed the system. If confirmed, I will work tirelessly to make sure that we protect FHA and enhance its risk management capabilities to proactively protect its future viability.
Immediately, my top three priorities would be as follows: first, we must ensure the solvency of the fund and ensure that FHA does not require taxpayer assistance.
This can be done by balancing FHA's public purpose with prudent credit risk management. This starts with a thorough review of credit parameters of the FHA program and to identify program features that are higher risk an could cause adverse impacts to the fund.
Additionally, lender management must be enhanced to ensure accountability for performance. Focusing on lenders with poor performance and removing them from the system is job one to protect the fund.
Finally, system investments must be made in order to improve both automated underwriting quality, as well as data integrity. Second, we need to make sure that FHA does everything to support the president's programs and the Administration's programs that are already -- have already been enacted.
Third, we need to restore FHA to a much more respected position of leadership in the marketplace. The overall effort to modernize the core technology systems must be combined with enhancing FHA's best practices, possessing and utilizing fraud detection tools that work, finding more effective solutions to mitigate losses and market disruptions in the future when adverse conditions occur again, and focusing on long-term solutions to make FHA a positive force in protecting the future of the nation's housing.
As a real estate executive, I have witnessed firsthand the importance and value of the FHA program. After the private label mortgage market collapsed in '07, I can assure you that the nation's economic problems would be significantly more worse today if it had not been -- if FHA had not been there to fill the void in the nation's housing system. FHA has fulfilled its public purpose by helping hundreds of thousands of families finance their homes with lower rates and better terms. The challenge now is to balance actuarial soundness and effective risk management. And if confirmed, I will be committed to ensuring FHA's financial stability going forward.
Thank you very much for your time.
SEN. WARNER: Thank you, Mr. Stevens, and thank you for taking the plunge. (Laughter.)
SEN. WARNER: Mr. Kovar.
MR. KOVAR: Thank you. Appreciate that. And thank Senator Dodd and the other senators on the committee for giving me the chance to testify here. As a congressional staffer for more than 25 years, I've often been in the back or back here, and it's a different experience and one that I really appreciate having a chance to sit at the table instead.
I do want to just introduce my wife, Paula, sitting behind me here, and my daughter, Sarah, and my son, Paul. It's great to have them here. And I want to thank Congressman Frank, who had to leave for that nice introduction. I guess Senator Kerry and also Kennedy put in written statements, and as a Massachusetts native, having their expressions of support really is a -- something I'll appreciate for a long time.
I do want to say that I hope the committee will confirm me, and if I am confirmed, I anticipate building strong relationships, not only with senators on the committee here, but on all of their colleagues throughout Congress to advance the important housing goals that have been articulated by President Obama and also Secretary Donovan.
As someone who became involved in politics out of a desire to assist people who are less well off or economically disadvantaged, it's really a great opportunity to be in line for a position at a Department which focuses on that set of issues.
In the short-term, there are three key initiatives that the Department is going to be working on, and on all of them, I think my role as the assistant secretary for congressional relations will be to ensure that we communicate fully with Congress and also that we interpret the information that you're providing back on how the Administration is doing.
The first thing, of course, is the response to the foreclosure crisis. I think the members of the committee are aware of the various components of that, and in particular, the efforts to both allow refinancing and also those who are having trouble paying their mortgages, to modify them. But it's essential going forward that we provide on an ongoing basis information on how that's proceeding. So I'll be doing that.
The second one is the Recovery Act with over $13 billion in key HUD initiatives, like promoting energy efficiency and creating green jobs, unlocking the credit markets, and also making funding available for shovel ready projects. It's going to be essential for Congress to really be aware of how that's proceeding and to be informed when grants are issued, et cetera.
Thirdly, the details of the budget have not yet been released, but that's probably going to happen in about two weeks. But the secretary has announced that key components of the budget will include additional steps to help those wish to purchase or refinance homes, promotional of affordable rental housing, curtailing mortgage fraud and predatory lending, expansion of green development, and increased funding for vouchers, and also programs like CDBG that are so helpful to low-income people and low-income areas.
HUD is going to on all of those have to undertake a major outreach effort to Congress, and again, I view that as the central element of my future job. The secretary mentioned in his confirmation hearing that Congress often hasn't received the information and data it needs to properly evaluate HUD's work, and he indicated that he would place a high priority on developing systems in order to meet those needs.
So this is something that I will be committed to, and this goes beyond the three issues that I just mentioned. We'll be working on ensuring that the Gulf Coast states that are still suffering from the effects of the hurricane are helped. That will also be something on which we'll have to provide metrics to ensure that we know how we're doing. And also, when we're looking at, for example, trying to preserve multi-family housing -- and there's the urban development component of HUD's mission too, which sometimes isn't mentioned, that we want to make sure we do well.
In Congressman Frank's office our top priority is serving the 600,000 constituents that we represent, and responsiveness is what we strive for in all of that. And I pledge to continue to do that. I noticed that Secretary Schumer mentioned that Congressman Frank said it would be okay if they didn't approve me, and as a loyal staffer, I am not accustomed to disagreeing with my boss in public, but maybe in this case -- (laughter) -- I'll make an exception. And so I do hope that the committee will confirm me and everybody else here, and thank you for the opportunity.
SEN. WARNER: Thank you, Mr. Kovar.
MR. TRASVINO: Thank you, Senator Warner, and it's a high honor to be nominated by President Obama to be assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. I'm gratified by the assistance of this committee in considering my nomination today during Fair Housing Month and for your favorable consideration to the full Senate. I'm particularly appreciative of Congressman Schiff's kind words from Pasadena.
In America, civil rights begins at home. As Americans, we are proud of the progress we have made in civil rights, progress made possible by the energies and insights of members of this committee and your predecessors dating back 41 years to the Fair Housing Act of 1968, progress made possible by the brave appeals to our true core principles as a nation of fairness, by countless individuals and institutions from south to north, rural, metropolitan, and urban America, from coast to coast to coast. The vital importance of carrying out the principles of fair housing for our communities remains today. And I bring to the post of assistant secretary a career of civil rights leadership, federal government, and institutional management, and dedication to bringing communities together.
The principles of fair housing probably have the greatest impact on our nation's children. If left ignored, the pain and shame of a parent whose family is denied an apartment or home because of race, national origin, or disability is felt by a child for a lifetime. But when fair housing violations are effectively addressed, and better yet, discrimination is prevented, we can provide a lifetime of recognition and understanding of the protection of the Constitution and our laws and the responsiveness of civil servants.
Moreover, where one lives shapes opportunities for an equal education, preparation for the workplace, access to transportation, culture, and myriad other elements of our daily life. So today as the Obama Administration and Congress work together to provide stability to home ownership, the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity must play a meaningful role.
When I was Senator Simon's counsel on the Constitution Subcommittee, I was honored to play a staff role in the passage of the Fair Housing Act amendments of 1988 and speak to disability organizations about the extension and protections of the law. As special counsel for immigration related unfair employment practices at the Department of Justice from 1997 to 2001, I led the federal government's only office devoted solely to immigrant workplace rights. There we were successful in widespread education to employers and legally authorized workers about their rights and responsibilities under the immigration and employment laws.
I'm proud of the accomplishments of the career attorneys and legal staff in obtaining back pay for discrimination victims, fining employers to remedy violations, and ensuring that the office was responsive to all stakeholders. I would apply these same principles to the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity to ensure that our partners, whether they are at the Department of Justice, at state and local civil rights agencies, among public interest fair housing advocates, industry associations, or organizations in the housing and lending industries, can carry out their work in furtherance of the Fair Housing Act.
We have many weapons available to us to eradicate housing bias from our society. All must be used in a coordinated fashion to be effective. I am grateful to the President for nominating me, giving me the opportunity to serve the nation in this capacity. Similarly, I am highly appreciative of your consideration and consent to my nomination. Thank you.
SEN. WARNER: Thank you, Mr. Trasvina.
MR. COHEN: Thank you, Senator Warner. I will be very brief.
SEN. WARNER: Yes, sir.
MR. COHEN: Chairman Dodd, Ranking Member Shelby, and distinguished members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify here today. It is truly an honor to be the nominee to serve as assistant secretary of the Treasury for terrorist financing. I want to thank President Obama for the confidence he has shown in me by nominating me and Secretary Geithner for recommending me to serve in this position.
I would like first to introduce my wonderful wife, Suzy, and our two outstanding sons, Sam and Zeke, who are here today. I'm also very happy that my parents, Jordan and Carol Cohen, are also here today. I know that this occasion fills them all with pride.
As I sit before this committee, I am keenly aware of the very significant responsibilities assigned to the assistant secretary for terrorist financing. As set out in the statute creating the position, the assistant secretary, working under the direction of the under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, is, quote, "responsible for formulating and coordinating the counterterrorist financing -- (inaudible) -- money laundering efforts of the Department of the Treasury." These efforts are critically important in maintaining the integrity of our financial system, combating illicit finance at home and abroad, and advancing the foreign policy and national security objectives of our great nation.
The variety and intensity of the challenges in this arena are, of course, ever changing. And if confirmed, I very much look forward to working on these challenges with the outstanding professionals who make up the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes at the Department of the Treasury, and I also intend to work closely with you, Mr. Chairman, the other members of this committee, and your staff to pursue our shared objective of protecting our national security and the integrity of our financial system.
Mr. Chairman, I would ask that my entire statement be entered into the record of this hearing. I'd be happy to answer any questions that you may have.
SEN. WARNER: Thank you, Mr. Cohen. Let me thank all of the witnesses here and make clear, echoing what Mr. Cohen said, that all of your full statements will -- can -- will be submitted for the record. Let me also add that a number of us have questions that we will submit as well, and we will have to get those answers back before your confirmation process is completed.
I would simply come back to Mr. Hochberg again. Chairman Dodd had asked me to raise this, and I share his concerns that, you know, there have been recent concerns about an inspector general -- reports about Export/Import Bank having upwards of between $100 million and $300 million of fraud over the last few years. We will look very carefully at your comments on that subject.
Let me also -- and I apologize. The vote is now down, is going. The fact that the other members are not here is not a reflection of anything other than the scheduling constraints of the Senate. And let me thank you all in advance for your service, and let me also thank the family members who are here. I know this was your dad's or wife's or husband's big day, and we thank you for your service as well as somebody who's been in public service for some time. It is truly a family affair, and our country will be better served by your participation, and we look forward to your speedy and rapid confirmation.
And with that, I say the committee stands adjourned. Thank you.