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Mr. MORAN. Mr. President, we have had a lot of news in Washington, DC, and across the country over the last few days. There was a decision from the Supreme Court regarding immigration laws in Arizona. We are expecting and anticipating a decision by the Supreme Court later this week regarding the Affordable Care Act. Front and center are issues that are important to the country.
We were successful last week in approving on the Senate floor a so-called farm bill, an agricultural bill that, again, has an impact upon many in our Nation. I want to make certain we don't lose sight of what remains and, in my view, what should be front and center.
All the things people ask government to do and all the things they want to accomplish in their own lives can only occur if there is a good and growing economy in the United States. So while I certainly would not call any of the other issues we are addressing here a distraction--they are all important--I want to make certain my colleagues understand we have to come together to make certain that Americans, individuals across our country, can access a job, can feel secure in the job they already have, and can have a sense that they have a future where they are employed or that if there is a need for a change in job, that opportunity exists. Job creation is something the Federal Government cannot do in and of itself, but the decisions we make here affect very much whether the private sector can have a level of confidence in the general economy, a regulatory environment, and a Tax Code that is conducive toward the private sector, creating jobs in the United States economy.
This matters, certainly from my point of view as a Member of the Senate, in that with job growth, with a growing economy, we are better able to pay down our national debt. In my view, if we are going to get what I consider the most serious circumstance our country faces today--the deficit and the debt--under control, I don't foresee how that happens without a good growing economy, putting Americans to work.
Of course, from an individual's point of view, it is important as a component of our lives--something that is important to us, which is that we figure out how to earn a living, put food on the table, save for our kids' education, and save for retirement.
The issues being addressed in the Senate, across the country, and across the street at the U.S. Supreme Court matter so much. We must not and cannot lose sight of the fact that we have to create an environment where jobs are front and center. We know the economic statistics--the unemployment rate is 8.2 percent and has been above 8 percent now for a long time. The Presiding Officer in the Senate this morning and I have introduced legislation the primary function of which is to create an entrepreneurial environment where startup companies can grow and prosper, and, in the process, they can put people to work. It is growth that we need to continue to focus on. I appreciate the opportunity of working in that manner with the Senator from Delaware, Mr. Coons, and others, to see that we do that.
The topic I want to specifically address this morning is this. I was reading the Wall Street Journal last week, and this article caught my attention. I am of the view that for economic growth to occur--and especially in communities across Kansas, the State I represent--we are going to have to have strong and viable community banks. There is a regulatory environment that makes that much more difficult. The headline of the article the Wall Street Journal included that I want to speak about--at least briefly--this morning is this: ``Small Banks Put Up `For Sale' Sign.''
The content of the article is very much about how small banks are now selling to other banks. The primary focus of this article is the reason that is happening--``a growing number of tiny community banks are deciding it's time to put out the `for sale' sign ..... many executives of these small lenders are frustrated by costly new regulations.''
It talks about banks in Iowa, in Ohio, in Texas, and it talks about a number of banks in which the bank or the individuals who own the bank never had an intention of selling. This was their livelihood and what they expected to pass on to the next generation, the next set of stockholders. Because of the regulatory environment, the article quotes them talking about how it is no longer any fun. A 66-year-old CEO is quoted as saying:
I don't run a bank anymore. I run around trying to react to regulation and, frankly, that's no fun. This is certainly important for the people who own and run a bank, but it matters in communities in my State that there is access to a local lender, a relatively small financial institution that knows its customers, and that the farmer, rancher, and small business person have the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with the individuals from whom they are borrowing money.
I know from my own circumstances of growing up and living in rural Kansas the likelihood of being able to get a loan from the community bank, the banker you know, who knows you, your ability, your creditworthiness, and your trustworthiness, is a pretty special relationship we have to be very careful we don't lose. If you are trying to borrow money from somebody you don't know, it is a different circumstance.
I want to highlight again this regulatory environment not just for banks but for all businesses in which the decisions are being made that they are not expanding--in this case, they are selling. The reality is that has consequences to every American and every American family. Job creation is going to be improved whenever we have a regulatory environment that encourages economic growth, not discourages it, and a regulatory environment that is certain. So much, particularly in the financial services industry, with banks and other financial lenders, the uncertainty exists in large part because of the passage of Dodd-Frank, and now its implementation, the uncertainty of whether more regulations are coming and what they are going to say and do, and they certainly can drive up the costs.
We certainly want to protect consumers, and we operate,
in many instances, in a regulated environment. But these regulations need common sense and need to take into account the specific circumstances particularly of a small bank. My small banks in Kansas had virtually nothing to do with the financial debacle of 2008. Yet they are burdened with the responsibility of complying with a huge new set of regulations that resulted from the efforts to address the financial crisis of 2008.
In fact, this article, again, points this out regarding the board meeting at this small bank:
The binder of information delivered to the bank's board before the last monthly meeting included 419 pages of information to be reviewed.
Banks more and more are having to put people on the payroll--compliance officers--as compared to those kinds of circumstances in which the bank is making loans. The cost of doing business and the cost of credit increases, and access to credit has diminished, and that is diminishing the chance for job creation.
One of the items under Dodd-Frank was the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This hit me while I was visiting one of my banks in Kansas. They told me the CFPB called and said they were sending 12 examiners and lawyers to come spend more than a month in this small bank, examining the bank. Again, these are banks that had little to do with the financial collapse of 2008. Almost without exception our community banks--certainly in Kansas--didn't make loans to people who were unlikely to repay the loans, and they didn't make loans to people who had no ability to repay the loans or without getting proper documentation and seeking the necessary creditworthiness of that borrower before making that decision. Yet the burden of these regulations falls directly upon them.
And while I guess I am speaking in support of trying to change this for the benefit of the bankers, who this is going to benefit, if we were to change the regulatory environment, is the person who wants to borrow money, who wants a buy an automobile or buy a home or who wants to buy a piece of commercial property. Yet they go to the banks in communities across Kansas and are told that because of the new regulatory environment, this is a loan we cannot make.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has 12 examiners and 2 lawyers, is soon to visit a small bank in Kansas and intends to be there for more than a month. The regulations the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau--well, they haven't created their regulations yet. They are auditing a bank before their regulations are in place. My reaction, when the banker told me that, was I need to go back to Washington and see if I can do something, perhaps through the appropriations process. I am the ranking Republican member on the Appropriations subcommittee for financial institutions and financial services. I thought we need to rein in the CFPB through the appropriations process to get them kind of within their sphere of where they belong, in a much more commonsense, less intrusive way.
It occurred to me that I don't have that ability. I can be a member of the Appropriations Committee and a Member of the Senate, and I can be the lead Republican on the subcommittee responsible for financial services, but because of the way the CFPB was created, its money is an automatic draft from the Federal Reserve. We, as Members of the Senate and Congress in general, have no input into the level of funding of an agency that will have a dramatic effect upon the financial institutions of this country and, therefore, the individuals, the consumers those financial institutions serve.
In addition to that, there is only one person who administrates the program, who is the administrator of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Unlike the CFTC and the SEC, where there is a commission and a board in which there is a collective decision made, there is only an administrator. I have introduced legislation and we have had this conversation on the floor before. I encourage my colleagues to look at this legislation that would reformulate the way the CFPB is managed and directed and would once again give Congress the opportunity to have input into how the CFPB functions.
I would never try to explain to Americans or to Kansans how great Congress does its job, but I do know the fact we are subject to election--the will of the people of America--every 6 years gives us the opportunity to have the input of the people into the administration and into the regulatory process that is so burdensome now upon so many businesses, including our financial institutions.
So my effort today is to highlight once again what we do in Washington, DC, and in this case particularly what the administration does today--what the Obama administration does today and what administrations have done in the past in regard to regulations--very much has a consequence upon whether Americans are going to live in a country with a growing economy in which there is a sense of security and people know what to expect or whether they are going to live in a country in which a business owner--a small business man or woman in Kansas or across the country--is holding back from hiring employees because they do not know what next is going to come from their own government in regard to regulations which are costly, drive up the cost of being in business, and reduce the chances of expansion in our economy, which reduce the chances that Americans can have good, solid employment opportunities.
I have two daughters graduating from college--one a couple of years ago and one this year--and the job market certainly is important to me as a parent and the ability for a young American to find a job and to pursue that job so they are able to pay back the cost of their education. That is something we need to seriously take into account. While I assume we are going to have a conversation again in the Senate this week on the cost of borrowing money for students and student loan interest rates, we ought not forget the most important thing we can do to help our students once they graduate, which is to make sure the economy is such that employment opportunities are available. It doesn't matter what the interest rate is if they can't find a job.
So we need to make certain we fulfill our responsibilities to the American people to see that the economy and job creation is front and center for the benefit of every American and for the benefit of our country's deficit. It is so important we create a growing economy.
I, again, would highlight how important it is for us to get the regulations under control and particularly criticize the circumstance in which legislation that does not pass Congress somehow takes effect because the executive branch concludes they can do by Executive order or by rule or regulation what we refuse to do. It is time for Congress to reassert its role, and it is time to make certain that in pursuing that role we create an environment in which jobs are front and center and the American people can all pursue the American dream.
Mr. President, I appreciate the opportunity to address the Senate today, and I yield the floor.
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