INCREASING THE STATUTORY LIMIT ON THE PUBLIC DEBT--Continued -- (Senate - January 26, 2010)
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Mr. BURRIS. Mr. President, a little over a year ago this country stood on the brink of economic disaster. Banks and financial institutions wavered on the verge of collapse. The foundation of our economy was shaken to its core. But that is when this Congress took bold action. In the face of public discontent, many of my colleagues summoned the courage to cast a difficult vote--a vote that set aside hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up our failing financial institutions, a vote that was not popular with the American people but that I feel history will judge as the right thing to have done.
These are the moments that define us--as individuals, as public servants, and as a nation. The American people called upon their representatives to make tough choices, to exercise their best judgment, and rise to every occasion that may impact the quality of life of the people of this country.
I applaud my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who lived up to these expectations and made the decision to do what was right, not what was popular. As a result of their courage and their ability to reach for something larger than the small politics of the moment, our economic foundation has been stabilized. That vote brought us back from the brink of disaster and restored confidence in the financial institutions that threatened to undermine our entire system. It did what was necessary to prevent a complete economic meltdown.
But make no mistake, this emergency legislation did not solve every problem. It was not a cure-all. And as many hard-working Americans will tell you, we are not out of the woods yet. There are still miles to go. Our country remains on the road to recovery. If we want to continue down this road, this Congress needs to take the next step. So at this point, we must turn our attention to the ordinary Americans who are still suffering. It is time to help Main Street.
It is time to take bold action to create jobs, help small businesses, and stabilize community banks. It is time to shift our focus to the innovators, entrepreneurs, and local institutions that drive our economy on a daily basis. In some places, things have already started to turn around and we need to continue that progress, but especially among poor and minority communities, these groups are falling further and further behind. As a former banker, I understand the vital roles these institutions play in local communities and our economy as a whole, and I understand the challenges they face in tough times such as these.
That is why we need to embrace a new economic program which will encourage banks to start lending, make capital available for small businesses, and mitigate the foreclosures. Let's stop shutting down people's homes and putting them out in the streets. If we work together to tackle these priorities, we can have regular Americans get back on their feet without spending another dime on Wall Street.
Let us come together right now to send a strong message to Main Street: Help is on the way. The cavalry is coming to help them. We can do this right now. We can do it without passing a new round of emergency appropriations. We can do it without increasing the deficit or the national debt and without writing another 100-page bill.
When the original economic stimulus was passed more than a year ago, this Chamber set aside roughly $700 billion to aid in the recovery effort. These efforts have been effective and, as we speak, there is still $320 billion that has not been spent. So rather than begin the process again, as some have suggested, let us simply change the focus of the existing program. Let us draw from the money we have already set aside to help small businesses, local banks, and ordinary folks. At the moment, we don't have the resources or the time to start over with a new round of stimulus legislation, so let us seize this opportunity to direct funds we have already designated for this purpose.
Every Member of this body has seen the devastating effects of the economic crisis in their home States. Everyone in this Chamber knows we need to act with urgency. We can't wait another moment. Thankfully, if we decide to embrace these priorities, there is no reason to wait. We can restore hope and optimism to Main Street, we can help the minority communities, small businesses, and local banks that are still in grave need of our assistance. We can do this, and I believe we must do it. The resources, the funds are there, and the commitment should be there. Let us use those resources now to put them into Main Street and help ordinary folks. Constituents come up to me all the time wondering: Where is my piece of the stimulus package? Well, it could be in Main Street. It could be in our local banks. So let's do it.
I call upon my colleagues to use those dollars that are now in the stimulus package to put them into Main Street, into the local banks, and start helping the local communities.
Thank you. I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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