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Mr. BURRIS. Madam President, we just witnessed a few moments ago the third attempt to try to do something about financial reform legislation in this body, and for the third time, it went down. I am an old baseball player. I played a lot of baseball in my young days, and there is a rule in baseball that says three strikes and you are out. Well, we have had three tries at this financial reform, and I will tell my distinguished colleagues on the other side of the aisle: We are not out. We are just beginning to fight under the circumstances we are confronted with because we are fighting on behalf of the American people.
Earlier this week, our distinguished majority leader called for a vote to open the debate on major financial reform. We have seen well-designed proposals from the Senator from Connecticut, Chairman Dodd. This bill reflects the priorities articulated by President Obama and supported by an overwhelming majority of the American people. It will end the so-called ``too big to fail'' and prevent massive banks from making risky decisions that threaten the entire American economy. It will eliminate the need for government bailouts, and it will institute commonsense regulations so companies cannot create investments that are designed to fail and then bet against them.
In short, this legislation is a good starting point. As a matter of fact, we have heard Chairman Dodd say time and time again we have to get it on the Senate floor so we can improve this legislation. I know I am supportive of a couple of amendments that would be beneficial to improve the legislation. It may not be the complete Wall Street reform package in its final form, but it contains a number of good provisions, and it is worth debating. So I am asking my colleagues, let's stop debating to debate.
The majority leader scheduled a vote to bring this bill to the floor so Members of both parties could offer amendments and make improvements. This was not a vote on the legislation itself. Leader Reid was not asking the Senate to pass the bill without debate or without amendment. He simply wanted to start the process. He wanted to begin deliberations on the floor of this Chamber in front of C-SPAN cameras and in front of the American people. But when the roll was called and my colleagues and I came to the Chamber, every single one of my Republican friends voted to block the debate, plus one of ours.
So we will try again, I hope, this afternoon, if not tomorrow, but we are not playing baseball on the floor of the Senate. This is not the all-American game, but it is the all-American future.
There was a second vote to start debate--to move ahead this process and take up the consideration of financial reform. But for a third time, my Republican friends stood in the way. They know they will have plenty of opportunity to try and defeat the bill once it is on the Senate floor, but they decided to drag their feet anyway.
We have seen this kind of thing before. This is the same Republican playbook we saw with health care reform, the same obstructionism, the same tired politics. In the past, they have been able to use this strategy to score political points. This time, I would respectfully suggest that my Republican friends have miscalculated. The issue of health care reform was complicated, so when it came time for debate, it was easy to distract and delay and to spread misinformation.
It was easy to muddy the waters so they could gain traction and delay President Obama's agenda. When the health care debate was over, good policy won out over good politics, and we passed the bill--but not before my friends on the other side had scored some political points.
This time it is different. Financial reform itself is very complex. That is why it is so easy for big banks to take advantage of consumers. That is why it is difficult to apply the kind of oversight we should have seen in the years leading up to the recent collapse.
The issue itself is hard. This time around, the tactics of distraction and delay will not work. That is because Americans are smarter than that. They know who the bad guys are.
About 2 years ago, Lehman brothers was one of the first dominoes to fall. Next came Bernie Madoff. Then a handful of other Ponzi schemes came crashing down. Most recently--just yesterday--we witnessed Goldman Sachs, one of the largest and most respected firms on Wall Street, was charged with fraud.
When it comes to financial reform, we know where the problem lies. My Republican friends can try to distract and obstruct all they want, but they will not succeed in confusing the American people. Ordinary folks have had their pocketbooks bled dry by this financial crisis. They have seen their hard-earned savings disappear and their future become dramatically less secure, and they know exactly who to blame.
For far too long, Wall Street banks have been subject to relaxed oversight. As a result, the focus of their business has changed. It stopped being about lending money to businesses, making smart investments, and encouraging free enterprise. When I was in the banking business, that is what we did. I was at the biggest bank in Illinois, the seventh largest bank in America, where we worked with companies, made loans, collected interest, and took the people's deposits in and paid them interest. And we kept the economy going.
Instead, Wall Street has basically turned into a casino. Look at the derivatives market. Here you essentially have an object that is being traded that has no value of its own. It has no ties to the actual economy. There is no product, no business idea, and no actual investment. It is just a high-stakes bet.
Without intelligent risk management, capital standards, and basic rules of the road, these bets have the potential to undermine the strength of our entire economy. Wall Street is a casino gone wild, and they are gambling with our money not theirs. They are making money off of our money.
The American people know this. They can see through the distractions and political posturing. They recognize the need to reform Wall Street so we can end bailouts, put commonsense rules in place, and make sure we never experience this kind of economic crisis ever again.
I am not sure what my Republican friends hope to gain by blocking our debate on this bill. They say they want to improve it, but that is exactly what we would be able to do once it is on the floor. Maybe they believe they can water down our reform package by dragging out this process. Maybe they would like the chance to hold some more Wall Street fundraisers before they have to take a vote on the legislation itself. Maybe they simply don't have an alternative plan, and they know they cannot win this argument on the floor of the Senate, with the eyes of the Nation on them.
I am not sure what they hope to gain by stalling financial reform. I urge my distinguished colleagues on the other side to please let us move ahead with this process. I urge them to set aside these political tactics and bring their ideas to the table so we can strengthen this bill and make sure our economic future is safe.
I call upon them to join us in debating, amending, and improving this important legislation rather than dragging their feet on a bill that has so much public support.
When we pass this into law, after extensive discussion, it will be a victory for the American people. If my Republican friends join us in this effort, it can be a victory for both political parties, as well. We will all benefit. The American people will benefit.
This legislation deserves to be debated in open session. I ask my Republican friends to let us move ahead. But if they will not, and they continue to delay and obstruct, then I challenge them to come to the floor and explain. I challenge any one of my distinguished colleagues on the other side of the aisle to walk into the Senate Chamber today and seek recognition from the Chair. I challenge them to stand before the American people and tell them why American families should be asked to fund Wall Street's recklessness and greed.
I want them to explain that, Mr. President. I believe we need to end these practices. I believe we need to take up the issue of financial reform without delay. If my friends on the other side disagree, it is their privilege to do so. But I believe they owe the American people an explanation. I am pretty sure it will be very difficult to explain to them why they are holding up this important piece of legislation.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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