I am proud to say that I was the only Inland Empire Area Representative to vote in favor of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This bill, signed into law by President Obama in February, 2009, has allowed thousands of Americans to keep their jobs. As of the end of October, the Recovery Act has created or saved over 640,000 American jobs. Specifically, the Recovery Act has authorized:
* $64 billion for state and local governments to prevent the layoffs of teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other state employees
* $2.5 billion given to California for highway construction
* $400 Making Work Pay tax credit for over 12 million Californians
* $48.8 million in funding for municipal bonds to California's 43rd Congressional District
I was also the only Inland Empire Representative to vote in favor of the Jobs for Main Street Act, which passed the House in December. This measure will create and save jobs with targeted investments for highways and transit, school renovation, small businesses, police and firefighters, and hiring teachers. These will be fully funded by redirecting TARP funds that were used to stabilize our nation's economy. The bill will also provide emergency relief for Americans suffering from the recession by increasing unemployment benefits, strengthening COBRA provisions, and extending the child tax credit to all low-income working families with children.
I am also a part of the recently-formed Jobs NOW! Caucus. This bipartisan caucus affords Members of Congress a platform on which to share ideas on how effective job policies can be formulated in a quick and efficient manner. While our economy has begun to show the first signs of recovery from this recession, we all know that the crisis is not over until Main Street is repaired. I am confident that through the work of this caucus, Congress will be able to come up with common-sense solutions that will allow for business growth and job stimulation.
I also serve on the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee for the 111th Congress. The Financial Services Committee oversees banking, monetary policy, housing, home lending, and international lending organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It also deals with the complex regulations that manage complicated borrowing and insurance law.
My priorities while on the committee are providing working families with increased access to capital markets, investment opportunities, and fair banking and insurance services. As our country rebounds from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we must ensure that we put the needs and values of the American family at the forefront. One of the worst things to occur over the past year is that working Americans have lost faith in our country's economic system. My colleagues and I are working hard to restore that faith.
One of the best ways we can rebuild and improve our financial system is by improving access for all Americans. Financial opportunities must be open to everyone, whether they are found in accounts at our local banks, in the purchase of new homes, or in investments in billion dollar multinational corporations. Below are some of the initiatives that the Committee has worked on over the past year.
Financial Regulatory Reform -- This past year, the Financial Services Committee has undertaken the essential task of analyzing the abusive practices and greed that were left unchecked and helped to cause the current economic crisis. Working together with the Obama Administration, the Committee reported an aggressive package that will plug the regulatory gaps, increase accountability and transparency, and create a financial system where greed and abuse is not allowed to dictate economic progress.
* Consumer Financial Protection Agency: A new agency will be formed with the sole mission of making sure that the consumer is protected in financial transactions. For too long our federal regulators have been focusing on the profitability of a financial institution rather than its customer service and satisfaction. This agency will ensure that this dynamic is on an equal playing field. I offered two amendments to this legislation -- one that will create an office focused on financial literacy within the new agency, and the other which increases the reporting requirements of the agency. Both of these amendments were adopted by the committee.
* Ending "Too Big to Fail": Legislation was passed by the committee that will effectively end the problem of "too big to fail." The bill will create an inter-agency council that will oversee the entire financial system and address threats to the system. It will also create a fund that financial institutions, not the American taxpayer, will pay into that will be used for the orderly dissolution of systemically risky companies.
* Regulating Overly-Risky Derivative Transactions: The committee approved a bill that would, for the first time, require comprehensive regulation of the over-the-counter derivative marketplace. This bill will ensure that companies are not able to engage in overly risky behavior at the expense of the American consumer and investor.
* Limits on Executive Compensation: In July, the committee reported out H.R. 3268, the Corporate and Financial Institution Compensation Fairness Act of 2009. This bill includes a "say on pay" provision, allowing shareholders to have an annual non-binding vote on the compensation of corporate executives.
These bills -- as well as others concerning regulatory improvements over private pools of capital, credit rating agencies, as well as increasing accountability and transparency for broker-dealers and investment advisors -- were incorporated into H.R. 4173, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. I am proud to say that in December this bill was passed out of the House in Representatives. Hopefully, the Senate will act on these issues soon, so the Administration can work to put these much-needed reforms into place.
Working to Fix the Housing Crisis -- I cosponsored and voted in support of the H.R. 1728, the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act of 2009. This legislation is designed to outlaw many of the high-risk industry practices that marked the subprime lending boom, as well as prevent borrowers from deliberately misstating their income to qualify for a loan. The bill establishes a simple standard for all loans: lenders must ensure that all borrowers can repay the loan. Moreover, all re-financings would be required to provide a tangible benefit to the consumer. After being voted on favorably in the spring, this bill was incorporated into the financial regulatory reform package.
I also was an original cosponsor and voted in support of H.R. 1106, the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, which was ultimately signed into law by the President in May. The bill provides incentives and key tools for lenders, servicers, and homeowners to modify loans and to avoid foreclosures. By making it easier for mortgage modifications to take place, homeowners with upside-down mortgages or who have been negatively impacted by the economy can work with their lender to keep their home, providing a benefit for both parties. Increasing modifications will be achieved through a number of methods including:
* Protecting lenders from frivolous lawsuits when they make loan modifications according with the Obama Administration's modification programs
* Reducing current fees for homeowners and lenders that have discouraged them from participating in the Hope for Homeowners program
* Expanding the President's loan modification program to FHA and mortgages in rural areas
Finally, in November I joined many of my colleagues in voting in favor of extending and expanding the first-time homebuyer tax credit. An $8,000 tax credit will be available for all first-time homebuyers until April 30, 2010. Additionally, a $6,500 tax credit will be extended to homebuyers who have been in their current residence for at least 5 years and are looking to buy another home. Extending and expanding the tax credit will continue to provide important stimulus to our economy and help our country along the road to recovery.
Reforming the Section 8 Voucher Program -- I was an original cosponsor and voted in support of the H.R. 3045, the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act, which passed out of committee in July. This bill helps to streamline many of the problems that currently exist with Section 8 housing assistance, including simplifying the calculation for tenant rent payments. Additionally, the bill makes it easier to transfer these vouchers between jurisdictions.
Eliminating Abusive Credit Practices -- I cosponsored and voted in support of the Credit CARD Act of 2009. This bill, which was signed into law in May, protects consumers from deceptive credit card practices and equips consumers with the information and rights they need to responsibly manage their credit. Unfortunately, credit card companies took advantage of the staggered implementation dates of the CARD Act, continuing to raise interest rates on consumers. That is why I cosponsored and voted in favor of the Expedited CARD Act, which moves the remaining dates up to December 1, 2009.
Increasing Transparency and Accountability in the TARP Program -- In the spring, I spoke on the floor and voted in favor of the TARP Reform and Accountability Act of 2009. This bill sets necessary requirements, accountability, and oversight provisions for how the Treasury Department should draw down the remaining money in program. I introduced, and the House Financial Services Committee adopted, three amendments which help to keep more families in their homes, provide essential protections from foreclosures for renters, and enable credit unions to receive TARP assistance.