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Stakeout Media Availability with Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Majority Leader; Senator Mitch McConnel (R-KY), Senate Minority leader; and Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Banking Committee. Subject: Foreclosure, Markets Cr


Location: Washington, DC

Stakeout Media Availability with Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Majority Leader; Senator Mitch McConnel (R-KY), Senate Minority leader; and Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Banking Committee. Subject: Foreclosure, Markets Crisis

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SEN. REID: Everybody, this is not April Fools'; this is serious business. (Laughter.)

We know that the smoke out there is the housing crisis. The fire is the economy. We -- bipartisan senators, the two leaders, the chairman of the Banking Committee and the ranking member of the Banking Committee -- are committed to moving forward with this legislation. We've set an arbitrary -- and it is simply arbitrary -- deadline, tomorrow at noon, that Senators Dodd and Shelby come back to us with a bipartisan amendment that will be offered. We're hopeful and confident that it can be one that both leaders support.

And does this mean there will be no other amendments? No. But if we can have this package done, it will make sure that we deal with the basics that we need to deal with and not some of the fringe stuff that people want to deal with.

This is important. I think the picture that we have here says it all. This is a crisis that we have. The only way it's going to be solved is working together. We can both go and do our separate press availabilities and beat up on the other. The time has come for us to legislate, not continue our bickering.

I think this can be done. We have two of the most experienced legislators in the Senate with Dodd and Shelby. They've both worked in the House as members. They are experienced over here. And I think they see the overall picture.

I am confident and very, very hopeful that it's going to be a breakthrough not only for this piece of legislation but what we can accomplish in this very difficult political year.

Senator McConnell?

SEN. MCCONNELL: Thank you, Leader Reid.

I -- let me just underscore that we've concluded on a bipartisan basis here that we're not just going to have a check-the-box exercise. We're going to legislate. We're going to do it on a bipartisan basis. If you're looking for an example of how we did that very successfully earlier in the year, it was the stimulus package.

Senator Shelby and Senator Dodd, as the majority leader has indicated, are our experts. They're going to take a day here and see what they can agree to. We're optimistic that they will be able to agree to a proposal. And as the majority leader has indicated, that'll be the core underlying bill off of which additional amendments will be offered.

This gives us a maximum chance of demonstrating to the American public that we can deal with important issues on a bipartisan basis quickly. So we've arranged a way to go forward that we think makes sense, not only for the Republicans and the Democrats but for the American people. I'm pleased to be here with the majority leader in that regard.

Senator Dodd?

SEN. DODD: Well, let me thank the majority leader and the Republican leader and Senator Shelby and others.

The most important word in all of this is the restoration of confidence, in my view, not only for homeowners, but others involved in the financial services sector of our country. And I think the fact that we're going to come together here, make a serious effort over the next number of hours and days here to pull together a package that will offer some hope and relief to those who could face foreclosure, that we release pent-up capital, which is critical to beginning to deal with the core issue that is now affecting every aspect of our economy, is critically important.

And the fact that we're coming together as Republicans and Democrats under the leadership of the majority leader and the Republican leader to actually help restore that sense of confidence is going to be maybe the most important thing we accomplish, in addition to the specifics of how we can offer some meaningful relief to those who are caught in this economic difficulty. So I look forward to the opportunity.

Senator Shelby and I work very closely together. I have great admiration for him. He ran this committee, the Banking Committee, during the period of their majority, so he knows these issues. We have many others who are interested and involved. Obviously, there are Finance Committee pieces of this as well, and Senator Baucus and Senator Grassley have great experience as well.

So we look forward to working with all of our colleagues here to shape a package here that can attract support across the political spectrum and, most importantly, send a message to the American people that we're on top of this issue and we're making a difference in their lives and want to turn this issue around. Inaction is not an option. Failure is not an option. And what we're going to propose here, we hope will be a positive and constructive set of ideas.

SEN. REID: Senator Shelby?

SEN. SHELBY: I agree with Senator Dodd, Leader Reid and our leader, Senator McConnell. These are unusual circumstances. Senator Dodd and I work the Banking Committee and have for years and years, and we understand, I believe, the fundamental crisis in the housing industry, along with the financial problems, to restore confidence to -- and the only way we're going to be able to do that in the Senate is working together. So Senator Dodd, we're going to have our staffs working on some things between now and probably all night to work something that we can all support or the majority of us can support in a bipartisan way. And I believe this will be the right message, not only from Washington but to the housing people and to the financial folks.

SEN. REID: We'll take a few questions, as much as we hate to.

Q Will the bankruptcy provision be out of the bill, then?

SEN. REID: Senator Shelby and Senator Dodd are going to be the ones putting this package together. I think it's very clear we'll probably have a vote on the bankruptcy provision, but it's up to these two men what they put in this bipartisan package.

Q Senator Dodd, you said that inaction is not an option. Was the way the Senate had proceeded in the past, maybe was going to happen this time, that inaction was a risk you all thought you couldn't afford that as senators?

SEN. DODD: Well, let's think positively, here. We're here to announce an effort that the majority leader has initiated, the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, has agreed with along with his conference. That's the good news, the positive news. I want to look forward to today and tomorrow, on how we can put something constructive on the table.

Q Senator Dodd -- (off mike) -- benefit of key provisions?

SEN. DODD: Again, I think that's -- I don't want to give you the weeds on this issue. Obviously, that's one provision. We need to talk about it. But I'm not going to negotiate it here on the podium.

SEN. SHELBY: Let me just add something. He asked a question about inaction. Inaction's never an option when you have a crisis of confidence in the housing market and in the financial markets. I think the American people are looking at the Senate right now to see how we're going to react to it. And I believe we're going to react to it positively.

SEN. REID: Thank you all very much.

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