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Mr. BURRIS. Mr. President, in recent days, since the Chamber opened debate on Chairman Dodd's financial reform bill, we have all heard a lot of talk about the irresponsible behavior on Wall Street. We have heard about the recklessness that cost this country trillions of dollars in lost savings, not to mention 8 million American jobs. We have heard about the consumers, especially minority populations and the elderly, who have suffered a great deal as a result of this economic crisis.
I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for joining in the debate about how to address these issues, and I am confident we can reach and find common ground.
Just yesterday, I came to the floor to voice my strong support for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that would be created under Chairman Dodd's bill. I believe this bureau should be at the heart of any reform legislation--to end abusive practices, serve as an advocate for ordinary Americans, and make sure everybody can get a fair deal. It would even help to prevent a similar financial crisis from taking place in the future.
But we need to make sure our bill is about more than prevention. We need to be proactive about finding solutions for millions of Americans--especially minority individuals--who are hurting right now. We need to start by expanding access to credit.
Under the Dodd bill, the Secretary of the Treasury will be authorized to establish a multiyear program of cooperative agreements, financial agency agreements, and grants--all designed to make credit more available to low- and middle-income Americans. For the first time in years, our legislation would give ordinary consumers access to mainstream financial institutions and provide alternatives to those payday loan operations. It would help defray the costs of programs that make small loans so folks could find it easier to get the resources they need without incurring unnecessary risks.
Our Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would also play a significant role in making credit more available. Currently, 16 percent of minority households do not have bank accounts, compared with only 4 percent of White households. As a result, African Americans and other minorities are more likely to use payday lending services, some of which are questionable practices, to take advantage of their customers.
That is why our Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would have the authority to supervise large, nonbank financial companies to cut down on abusive tactics. It would also help enforce fair credit card laws, rein in automatic overdraft programs, and clarify the complex web of rate charges.
In short, this legislation would reduce or eliminate many of the factors that keep people away from banks. It would help raise financial literacy and establish reasonable terms and conditions for loans. At its core, it would significantly expand access to credit--especially among those who continue to feel the worst effects of this economic crisis.
That is why I am proud to support the Wall Street reform bill that has been introduced by my good friend, the distinguished Senator from Connecticut, Chairman Dodd. I urge my colleagues to join me in passing this important legislation.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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