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Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. I thank the gentleman from Washington.

I urge Members to vote for this bill, although my enthusiasm is tempered. As I contemplate this bill, I think of the words of a former great Member of this body, a former Speaker of the House from my home State, the late John McCormack, who, not wanting to offend House rules, referred to one of his colleagues as someone whom he held in ``minimum high regard.'' That's essentially what I think about this bill.

I thank my colleague from Massachusetts (Mr. Olver) for the good work he did on an important provision that means a lot to public housing in Massachusetts involving federalization. I appreciate the increase in the FHA being maintained so the people who live in the areas I represent and in California and elsewhere are not discriminated against. So, for that, I am grateful.

But there is a serious flaw in the bill in two areas, or there are two serious flaws in one area each.

The HUD budget is good in that federalization but severely lacking. I regret the fact that we will be spending more on community development and building important institutions in Afghanistan than we are in America.

And even more important is the issue that the gentleman from California (Mr. Farr) mentioned. It is incredible to me that my Republican colleagues brought out of their subcommittee a bill that would give the Commodity Futures Trading Commission less money this year in the coming year than it got this year. Now, the Senate was able to bring it back up to level funding.

Understand, we are talking about derivative regulation. We're talking about AIG. We are talking about a dangerously unregulated operation. We are talking about the thing that has us concerned now about the extent to which there may be a contagion from Europe to America because of derivatives, credit default drops issued by American banks. I think we have a handle on this, but we would do better if we had the bill fully implemented. You can read today in The New York Times about the role of the CFTC trying to straighten out the MF problem.

It is extraordinary that we give the Commodity Futures Trading Commission a new responsibility. Because of prior foolish moves by this Congress and a President, we had not regulated swaps, a very important new form of derivative. They are a dangerous instrument, and they need to be regulated. And this is a wholly new responsibility for the CFTC. And the members of the Appropriations Committee on the Republican side would have given it, if they had their way, less by a significant amount for the next year than this year. We got it up to even.

But let's be very clear: People who do not want to give the CFTC any additional money are basically telling the American people that they think it was just fine what AIG did. It was just fine that we have these unregulated derivatives, that people were able to accumulate debts far beyond what they could pay.

The CFTC was also given, under our legislation, a specific mandate to deal with speculation. I know there were some on the Republican side who think speculation has nothing to do with oil prices and it has nothing to do with food prices, and I think the evidence is clearly to the contrary. People who can tell me that these ups and downs in the oil market are purely because of supply and demand, I await for them to describe to me when Santa Claus arrives.

The fact is that regulating derivatives is an essential part of preventing the problems that we ran into a few years ago and we are now trying to prevent. And level funding the CFTC--and level funding only because our Senate colleagues insisted on overcoming a Republican effort here to give it less money in the current coming year than in the current year--is a terrible act of irresponsibility.

I hope that we will be able soon to remedy this. But I fear that what you do with this, Mr. Speaker, in this legislation is to open us up to the kind of irresponsible, unregulated financial behavior that led to the greatest crisis we have had in so many years.

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