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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Madam President, last month the Senate Banking Committee reported out a bill to overhaul the financial regulatory system in this country--a bill that was, unfortunately, designed to invite Republican opposition from committee members, as evidenced by the party-line vote on reporting it out. At that time, I felt some sympathy for my Banking Committee colleagues who wanted to play a role but were shut out of the process.
As the ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, we have a history of producing bipartisan legislation. We always respect each other and seek to forge compromise in the name of advancing good public policy. The chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, Senator Lincoln, is always more interested in getting the policy right than engaging in partisan debates. So I held out hope that the Agriculture Committee could consider our contribution to the financial regulatory reform legislation in a more productive environment than my colleagues on the Banking Committee faced.
The issues involved in financial regulatory reform are complex, very important, and involve both the jurisdiction of the Banking Committee and the Committee on Agriculture. The Agriculture Committee has a responsibility to ensure that the Commodities Futures Trading Commission continues to effectively carry out its duties, including any new authorities and responsibilities to regulate derivatives that Congress requires.
Before we make a big policy change, we need to ask ourselves whether the solutions that have been proposed by the administration and which are largely reflected in Banking Committee Chairman Dodd's bill will even address the underlying problem. Why take a chance in these uncertain times to make legislative and regulatory changes that could possibly make things worse, potentially dry up capital, force the cost of doing business higher, and ultimately even drive these markets overseas?
Let me be clear. I am not proposing a do-nothing approach. In fact, I believe there are a number of ways in which we can more appropriately regulate derivatives, and it is Congress' job to write this legislation. We seek input from the administration and our regulatory agencies, but it is our responsibility to consider their suggestions, take into consideration the opinions of the American public, and put forward that which will become law.
Many businesses that use derivatives and swaps to manage risk in their everyday course of business are concerned that as Congress tries to reduce overall systemic risk in our financial markets--including regulation of over-the-counter derivatives--Congress might actually limit their risk management options. I am not talking about large financial institutions. I am not talking about Wall Street financial institutions. I am talking about businesses that provide goods and services and employment opportunities in each of our States.
These companies are concerned about aspects of the administration's proposal that would require them to clear standardized transactions and execute their transactions on a trading facility. Many of them have told me this would add considerable costs that would be passed along to customers or consumers, or perhaps prevent their businesses from using swaps and derivatives as a risk management tool altogether.
These companies are not antiregulation; they are supportive of increased transparency to the regulator, and they are willing to endure any additional burdens that go along with that. Clearly, the recent past has taught us that the regulator needs more data in order to view and police the entire marketplace, but I am not sure the lesson of the recent market meltdown warrants increased costs to businesses that had little, if anything, to do with creating this financial crisis.
Beyond requiring more transparent market data for the regulators, the Agriculture Committee has been exploring how most effectively to apply greater regulation to swap transactions. If Congress is truly interested in addressing the problem as opposed to politicizing a solution, we can no longer ignore the complexities of these markets. We must devote time to understanding these instruments and their applications. We must seek to understand the legitimate purposes these complex instruments serve for large and small businesses in each of our States. Chairman LINCOLN and I have devoted a great deal of time to understanding the over-the-counter derivatives market, its complexities and its unique and legitimate utility. That is our job as Senators on the committee of jurisdiction.
Unfortunately, our bipartisan negotiations have now been halted due to political influence from the administration. It seems that the administration fears a bipartisan deal on any aspect of financial reform legislation. As the Banking Committee members moved toward a bipartisan deal, the administration launched an attack on such efforts, and as Chairman LINCOLN and I were about to conclude our negotiations and release a bipartisan draft on derivatives reform, the administration stepped in once again to shut down the process.
The American public should be aware of what is going on here. Republicans on the committees of jurisdiction have been more than willing to constructively participate in the development of new regulations aimed at addressing what went wrong with our financial system. But the current administration seems more interested in political gain than in addressing this critical issue. It seems that, instead of seeking meaningful reform both Democrats and Republicans can support, the administration is more interested in trying to divert attention away from health care by changing the subject as we head into the election season.
The administration seems intent on going far beyond finding bipartisan solutions to address what caused the financial meltdown, and instead is pursuing reckless policies that could be dangerous for our markets and ultimately our consumers who depend on these markets.
However, it seems to me that the American public is well aware of the financial meltdown, because they live with it every single day. The last thing they want is for Congress to spend months talking about it some more.
I want to be very clear. A week ago, I was prepared to support a bipartisan compromise on reforming our derivatives market--a compromise that I believe an overwhelming majority of the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, could have supported and one that would have been implemented quickly to provide much-needed regulation, and then the White House stepped in and basically said a bill with Republican support is not worth advancing. They want an issue, not a solution, and want to drag this issue into the November elections in the hope that voters will be focused on reforming the financial system and forget about how angry they are about the passage of the recent health care legislation.
I will say one more thing about the regulation of derivatives for folks to keep in mind as this process moves forward, which is that Republicans and Democrats generally agree on the major issues relating to derivatives regulation. We all generally agree there needs to be greater transparency, registration, more clearing, and compliance with a whole host of business conduct and efficient market operation regulations. This is important because it is a 180-degree shift away from current law where today over-the-counter swaps are essentially unregulated.
Within this general agreement that swaps need to go from unregulated to fully regulated, we have some significant areas of disagreement about whether everyone needs to clear in all instances, and how best to require swaps to be transacted and reported. These disagreements are significant because they involve real burdens and duties, which will result in real costs to businesses and consumers. As Republicans, we want to make sure our new regulations serve a useful purpose.
As we begin the debate on derivatives regulation and Republicans start to get painted--as we have already seen--as the party of Wall Street and against reform, I want folks to know and understand this is disingenuous. Republicans believe there is a need to regulate the currently unregulated swaps market. We support doing so in a way that is responsible and that meets the risk management needs of Main Street.
I remain very hopeful that at the end of the day, we can strike a bipartisan agreement--not just on the title that refers to swaps and derivatives but also on the titles to the financial regulatory reform that deal with regulation, as well as the consumer protection finance agency.
With that, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in morning business.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Burris). Without objection, it is so ordered.
HONORING OUR ARMED FORCES
1ST LT. ROBERT WILSON COLLINS
Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I rise today to honor the life and selfless commitment of 1LT Robert Collins to the U.S. Army and to our Nation.
While many other young Americans his age were headed back to school from spring break, LT Collins died April 7, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle on the streets of Mosul, Iraq. He was 24 years old.
It is time the American people know a bit more about this young man who sacrificed for his country his life, his family and all his potential, giving up all that he had, and all that he was going to be.
LT Collins was both a native Georgian, and was based in Georgia.
He hailed from the small town of Tyrone in Fayette County, where he played football under the Friday night lights at Sandy Creek High School, where he became a standout student that would take him to the halls of West Point, and where he attended Hopewell United Methodist Church with his family on Sunday mornings.
Later, he became a member of the local American Legion Post 105 in Fayetteville, GA.
For me, the death of LT Collins is particularly sobering. Robert was one of my first nominees to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in the fall of 2003, and was offered an appointment there the following spring. He graduated from West Point in 2008.
He became one of the stalwarts of B Company, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division based at Fort Stewart, GA. He deployed to Iraq in the autumn of 2009.
LT Collins served as his platoon's commander. While in Iraq, his unit was charged with improving security and the quality of life for the people of Iraq. He and his men also provided security for the recent, successful Iraqi elections. They were dedicated to the goal of a peaceful, democratic Iraq, and sought to help its people lead normal, safe lives.
It is said that the measure of a man can be taken by what those who knew him say when he is gone. Robert's friends have described him as a man of great compassion, a leader with an excellent personality and an infectious laugh. They say he was always there for friends and family, for when they needed him. They say they are better people for having known him.
LT Collins found his voice in the honor and patriotism of the Army. With both his mother and his father retired Army officers, he was a man with the military in his blood. They both survive him, as does his girlfriend, Nicole, who was Robert's high school sweetheart.
I extend my deepest sympathies to LT Collins' family and friends, and ask that my colleagues--and all Georgians--keep them in their prayers during this time of sadness.
Robert performed his duty courageously, devotedly, without hesitation, without reservations. He was, after all, a soldier.
The world may be occupied with other things on this beautiful spring day, and the media with other stories.
But one of those should surely be the procession that will bring LT Robert Collins' body home today, winding its way from Falcon Field in Peachtree City through downtown Tyrone. It should also be about the Americans who knew him, who will line the roads to welcome him home a final time, recalling the words of A.E. Housman:
Today the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsmen of a stiller town.
Mr. President, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
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