Reining in Wall Street and Protecting Consumers
Last month, I voted to rein in Wall Street, end taxpayer bailouts of big banks, and create a consumer financial protection bureau that finally puts consumers first. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act will end the era of abuses by "too big to fail" banks that have cost the American people 8 million jobs and $17 trillion in retirement savings and net worth.
Too many people lost their jobs, their homes and their savings as a result of reckless decisions by Wall Street. This will put the power back in the hands of consumers and restore some common sense after almost a decade of the government looking the other way when it came to big banks taking advantage of the system.
The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act will help prevent the risky financial practices that led to the financial meltdown and stop large financial firms from gambling with Americans' retirement and college savings and home values. In addition, taxpayers will no longer pay the price for Wall Street's irresponsibility. The bill creates a process to shut down large, failing firms whose collapse would put the entire economy at risk. After exhausting all of the company's assets, additional costs would be covered by a "dissolution fund," to which all large financial firms would contribute.
The bill will create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a new consumer watchdog devoted to protecting Americans from unfair and abusive financial practices. This independent bureau will provide clear and accurate information to families and small businesses to ensure that bank loans, mortgages, and credit cards are fair and affordable. Just like the FDA does for medical safety, the CFPB will set safety standards to prevent practices such as hidden credit card fees, deceptive "fine print," and other financial abuses that have escaped oversight so far.
Once again this vote came down to being on the side of working families or on the side of the big banks. I'm on the side of working families who want consumer protection from fraud and financial security.
The bill has been called the "strongest set of Wall Street reforms in three generations" by Elizabeth Warren, Chair of the nonpartisan Congressional Oversight Panel, and has been endorsed by the AARP, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Council of Institutional Investors, National Fair Housing Alliance, National Restaurant Association, Public Citizen, SEIU, and US PIRG, among other organizations. The bill was publicly debated for more than 50 hours, and includes over 70 Republican and bipartisan amendments.
Voting to Cut Government Waste
I voted to reduce waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars by cutting out improper and excessive payments from federal agency spending. The Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act will help identify, reduce and eliminate improper payments, as well as recover lost funds that federal agencies have spent improperly.
There is no excuse for wasting taxpayer money. This bill cracks down on improper spending by federal agencies and provides the transparency and accountability taxpayers deserve.
Federal agencies spent $98 billion of taxpayer funds on improper payments in 2009, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). This legislation includes provisions to increase transparency, prevent improper payments, recover overpayments, and hold federal agencies accountable.
The bill will require agencies to develop and report on action plans to avoid future wasteful spending. It will lower the threshold for reporting improper payments, increase audits to hold agencies accountable, and make top agency managers responsible for reducing improper payments.
The Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act, S. 1508, which was sponsored in the House by Congressman Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, passed by a vote of 414 to 0 and now heads to President Obama for his signature.
San Diego and Imperial Valley to receive over $11.5 Million for Border Security
Last month, I announced that San Diego and Imperial counties have been allocated $11,770,272 for border security measures from the Department of Homeland Security under the Operation Stonegarden program. San Diego County is set to receive $8,844,033 and $2,926,239 will go to Imperial County.
We need a border that is effective, efficient and secure. This money will go a long way to move us closer to that goal.
Operation Stonegarden was created to enhance cooperation and coordination among Federal, state, territorial, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies in a joint mission to secure the United States' borders.
My goal is to have a smart border that facilitates commerce, protects our communities and makes our ports of entry efficient.
Congress passed the funding for Operation Stonegarden as part of the Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2010.
Calexico, Imperial Airports to receive Federal Grants
I am pleased to announce that Calexico International and Imperial County airports will receive a combined total of $1,398,463 for upgrades and repairs.
I'm happy to see so much federal funding heading to the Imperial Valley. Not only will these funds help make our airports safer, they will play a part in stimulating the local economy.
Calexico International Airport was allocated $239,551 to install a precision approach path indicator (PAPI), runway end identifier lighting system (REILs), and airfield guidance signs.
Imperial County Airport will receive $1,158,912 for the phased construction of the aircraft cargo apron, the design of various improvements including rehabilitation of runway lighting, relocation of the segmented circle, and installation of perimeter fencing.
Applauding the Rule Shift at VA that will help Combat Veterans Immediately
Secretary Shinseki's announcement to simplify the process for a veteran to claim service connection for post-traumatic stress disorder will immediately help combat veterans get the help they need. Recent reports show that one in five veterans returning from Iraq reported a mental health problem and combat exposure is an important contributing factor.
Currently, veterans who apply for PTSD-related disability benefits must meet a stringent level of evidence, which certainly delays and often denies benefits to thousands of veterans. The new rule will make it easier for all veterans suffering from PTSD to receive VA health care and disability compensation. Proof of service in uniform in a war zone, combined with a later diagnosis of PTSD, will be all that is required.
Members of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs heard directly from newly returning veterans to determine how to begin to repay a debt of gratitude and remove the barriers, loopholes, and hurdles currently in the path of veterans. I would like to thank Congressman John Hall, Chair of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee, for his tireless efforts to improve the lives of injured veterans. I applaud Secretary Shinseki for following the Committee's lead on this issue and taking this important step to ensure that veterans get the support they need as they transition from combat to the civilian world, and the benefits they have so bravely earned.
The House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held countless hearings on how to improve the disability claims process to better serve America's veterans. A roundtable was held on October 7, 2009, to discuss the implications of the VA's rule on PTSD. Testimony and an audio replay of the roundtable can be found here: http://veterans.house.gov/hearings/hearing.aspx?NewsID=477.
House Passes Resolution to support the Spirit of '45 campaign and honor the 65th Anniversary of the end of World War II!
I secured approval from Congress for my resolution supporting the Spirit of "45, a year-long national campaign to raise public awareness of the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II.
I'm happy to announce my legislation supporting the Spirit of '45 has passed! "The Spirit of '45 campaign has a broad vision - to increase awareness of the anniversary of the end of World War II, to encourage communities across the country to celebrate this historic day and to preserve the stories of those who experienced that momentous day.
The Spirit of "45 campaign encourages communities to hold commemorative events, as well as to collect first-hand memories of those who experienced August 14, 1945 -- memories that will be preserved on a web site and shared with schools, libraries, museums, memorials and the public. Many of the memories may also be provided to the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress. Stories can be submitted via the www.spiritof45.org website.
It is incumbent on all of us to honor the legacy of the World War II generation whose members are rapidly passing into history. Celebrations of the 65th anniversary should not only serve as a remembrance of that historic day, but also of the unity and personal sacrifice that defined their generation.
On the weekend of the anniversary, August 14-15, public events to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II will be held across the country, including a major event being planned in New York City's Times Square.
These events will not just focus on the past, but also on how to assure that our latest generation of veterans receives the kind of welcome home as did their forefathers of the World War II generation.
In January, the Spirit of '45 campaign was officially kicked-off in San Diego on the USS Midway during the Second Annual National Call to Service. I was joined by 600 guests, including current and past service members, Hollywood star Hugh O'Brian, and Edith Shain, the nurse from the iconic "Times Square Kiss" photograph who recently passed away in June at the age of 91.
I introduced the legislation, H.Con.Res. 226, Supporting the observance of "Spirit of '45 Day," on January 13, 2010. The resolution had 76 co-sponsors at the time of passage.
San Ysidro Health Center Officials Discuss Community Health Needs
I recently met in my Washington, D.C. office with San Ysidro Health Center officials Ed Martinez (CEO) and Victor Nieto (Vice-President of the Board of Trustees) to discuss community health needs.
Constituent Mail Bag
From San Diego:
With the ecological devastation from the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil blowout still unfolding in the Gulf, I am writing to ask you to support passage of the CLEAR Act (H.R. 3534). This important legislation will reform offshore and onshore oil and gas development, promote clean energy choices and help protect healthy habitats.
While it will be some time before we can fully comprehend the magnitude of the Gulf oil disaster, we know more needs to be done to ensure the safety, economic, and wildlife implications of drilling are fully accounted for and addressed.
Congressman Filner replies:
Thank you for contacting me with your concerns about offshore drilling.
I wholeheartedly agree with you! The federal government must find alternatives to our energy needs, rather than permit dangerous offshore drilling of our sensitive waters. Such drilling clearly has a negative impact on our coasts and wildlife. Rest assured, I will work with my colleagues to find smarter and cleaner energy solutions!
I appreciate your advocacy on this important issue.