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Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. VITTER. Thank you, Madam President.

Madam President, 12 days ago we were struck by two bolts almost out of the blue: the suggestion that our financial system was on the verge of collapse and a proposal under which unprecedented power, discretion, and taxpayer dollars would be given to the Federal Government essentially in the form of one person--the Treasury Secretary--to intervene in the market.

There have since been many amendments to this plan and much talk about taxpayer protection--all of it well intended, thoughtful window dressing. So make no mistake, if Congress passes this bill, it will be passing, 12 days later, an unprecedented expansion of Government power and discretion along with $700 billion of hard-earned taxpayer funds.

After listening to many people I deeply respect, including thousands of hard-working Louisianians, I will--indeed, I must--vote no. I will not vote no because I do not think we face very serious economic challenges. We do. Credit is drying up, and that presents a real threat to all Americans. I will not vote no because I do not think the Federal Government needs to act. It does, as soon as responsible action is possible. I will vote no because we do not need to use $700 billion of hard-earned taxpayer money in this way, cross this line, set this precedent.

We need to stabilize the market and increase liquidity, not replace the market with unprecedented Government intervention at taxpayer risk and expense. We need to minimize the pain on average Americans who did nothing wrong, not wipe it away from politicians, lenders, and, yes, some borrowers who did plenty wrong who were plenty reckless.

My fundamental concerns with this plan are only heightened by the fact that to implement it, tens of thousands of judgment calls will have to be made as to what to buy and for how much. Those judgment calls will be made by whom? Teams of new bureaucrats who came from Wall Street and who want to go back there. That ensures bias and even corruption.

My deep general unease is only fueled by the fact that there has been no real discussion of the fundamental, long-term reforms that are needed--breaking up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, demanding real money down for all home purchases, and establishing aggressive, progrowth tax and economic policy. What is worse, there has probably been no real discussion of this because neither this Congress nor the one about to be elected will pass any of it.

A week ago, I may have voted in anger. Although that is still there, I act now with a profound sense of sadness and disappointment because this unprecedented expansion of Government intervention at taxpayer expense is the product of an appalling lack of political leadership--first, crying fire in a crowded movie theater, then demanding that the only escape is to take dangerous action like tearing down the walls though there are plenty of exit doors in sight.

I truly pray that much of what I have said is proven wrong. I will try very hard to do just that myself, particularly in terms of the next step, by working tirelessly to pass the fundamental reforms we need so that a repeat of this mess--however much a repeat is actually encouraged by this bailout--never happens again. However we vote on this first step, I hope we can come together on the next step in terms of meeting that challenge: passing the fundamental reforms we need. In that spirit, I ask the leaders of this Congress to call this Congress back this year immediately following the election to do just that.

Now is the time to enact real solutions that grow our economy, develop small businesses, and increase opportunities for all Americans. Now is the time to reform the misguided Government policies that caused this mess in the first place. And now is the time to stop knee-jerk political reactions and focus on real solutions to secure our Nation's future, not just for next week but for our next generation.

Madam President, I yield back the floor.

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