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Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, less than 2 weeks ago, the Treasury Secretary came to the American people with some bad news. He said he needed Congress to help. And soon, after significant debate, Congress will deliver.

The problem we face as a Nation is urgent and unprecedented. As a result of lax lending practices earlier in the decade, millions of Americans now find themselves either delinquent or unable to cover their mortgages.

If this were the only problem, we could address it individually by helping those who were victims of fraud and letting those who made bad judgments or who lied on their loan applications pay for their mistakes.

But what began as a problem in the subprime mortgage market has now spread throughout the entire economy. And here is where the crisis hits home.

After banks made these risky mortgages, they sold them. The institutions they sold them to then shopped them around the world. And now these troubled assets are frozen on the balance sheets of the businesses that you and I rely on to buy everything from dishwashers to new homes.

At the heart of the rescue plan is a need to lift these assets off the books and to restore confidence in the institutions that hold them. Then, once the housing market stabilizes, we will sell them back.

Many economists, including those at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, predict that once the assets are sold off over the next few years, the net loss to taxpayers could be negligible.

But for now, the practical problem we face is this: credit, the lifeblood of our economy, is frozen. And unless we act, it is expected to remain that way.

This means that the lives of ordinary American families could be severely disrupted, commerce could dry up, and millions of jobs could be lost.

The original White House proposal for addressing this crisis was unacceptable to Members on both sides in its initial form. But both parties have since made sure that the taxpayers are protected once a final deal is reached.

For my part, I came to the Senate floor and put down a firm marker: if Congress was going to help companies that got us into this mess, then executives at these companies would play by our rules. I also said that the Government wouldn't be allowed to use this plan as an excuse to fund new programs: No golden parachutes, limits on executive pay, and no favors for special interests.

Thanks to bipartisan insistence on all of these points, the plan that the House voted on earlier this week included every single one of our initial demands. And so does the plan that the Senate will vote on tonight.

This process hasn't been easy.

For the past week, Members of Congress and their staffs have worked around the clock to craft a rescue plan that is designed to protect American families from the shockwaves of the credit crisis.

When that plan failed in the House, we picked up the pieces, and we put together an even better plan that we think will make it through the House, and onto the President's desk this week.

It is important that we act now, because the crisis is spreading.

Small business owners in Kentucky are writing urgent letters to my office saying that their interest rates are already skyrocketing and putting their businesses--and employees' jobs--at risk.

A woman in central Kentucky wrote that she is afraid she will have to sell off part of her family's farm.

A retired school counselor wrote to say she can't afford to see her small retirement savings vanish.

A small business owner in La Grange told me he might not be able to make payroll because, in just the past week, the interest rate on the loan he took out to finance his building more than tripled.

The current crisis may have its roots in the actions of a few. But its effects could potentially reach into every single home in Kentucky, and every other home in America.

This economic rescue plan is a necessary effort to protect the vast majority of Americans--whose day-to-day lives depend on ready access to credit--from the misdeeds of Wall Street. And at this point, doing nothing to prevent an economic collapse is no longer an option.

Here is what the second largest newspaper in America, the Wall Street Journal, said about the rescue plan earlier this week: ``It deserves to pass because in reality it is an attempt to shield middle America from further harm caused by the mistakes of Wall Street and Washington.'' ``The current seizure in the credit markets is real,'' the Journal added, ``and it will do far more harm if not repaired soon.''

For lawmakers, failing to pass this economic rescue plan would be grossly irresponsible. The voters sent us to Washington to respond to crises, not to ignore them. To that end, we have acted swiftly. And lawmakers from both political parties have worked hard to protect taxpayers at the beginning and at the end of this plan.

Thanks to our insistence, this rescue plan will have strong Federal oversight. Not only will there be a strong and diverse executive oversight board watching every single transaction, but we will also have the ability to investigate, pursue, and punish any executive who engages in fraud or who attempts to use this plan for personal enrichment.

If the Government is forced to take over the biggest companies, the first thing we will do is wipe out existing compensation packages for failed executives. Then, we fire them.

For most other institutions we assist, failed executives will no longer get million dollar payouts. And those who previously negotiated severance packages will pay one fifth of them in taxes--on top of the standard 30 to 40 percent tax currently in place. This means that executives at these firms will have to hand over more than half of their existing pay packages to the taxpayer.

Moreover, no executive who hasn't already worked out a compensation package will be allowed to get one. At these companies, the days of golden parachutes are over.

As another way of protecting taxpayers, Republicans insisted early on that every dollar the government gets back as a result of this program goes directly to reduce the Federal debt. This plan guarantees it. Every dime we get back will be used to pay our debts.

Since Monday's House vote, we have made some significant improvements to the bill. In order to protect bank customers, Congress will allow the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to insure deposits up to $250,000 for 1 year, up from the current $100,000.

We also added significant tax relief for American families and businesses, including a temporary patch on the AMT middle class tax that will protect millions of Americans--including 135,000 Kentuckians--from an average $2,000 increase in their annual tax bill.

At the moment, this plan represents the best way to bring stability to the credit markets, avoid a credit meltdown, and put America on the road to economic recovery. But Congress's job does not end there. After completing this bipartisan effort, Members of Congress must recommit ourselves in strengthening America's long-term economic security.

We should refocus our attention on a balanced energy plan that enables us to find more American energy resources and use less, and by refusing to spend money we do not have on programs that we do not need, thus laying a strong economic foundation for our children to inherit.

Soon, Senators will cast this historic vote. And when we do, the American taxpayers should know this: This plan was written with their best interests in mind. Not a dime will be spent without strict oversight.

Failed executives will be held accountable. No more golden parachutes. In the end, the American people can expect to recoup most, if not all, or even more of the money that is spent.

The legislation is not something any of us really wanted to consider. Under ordinary circumstances, high-flying businessmen who make bad decisions or abuse shareholder trust should be allowed to fail. But the situation we find ourselves in is serious, it is urgent, and failing to act now would have devastating consequences for our Nation's economy. We must contain the damage. The potential consequences of inaction for our Main Street economy are simply too great.

Madam President, I also wish to mention that as of earlier today, there were--I have a list of 106 groups supporting the rescue package. I would mention two that I think are noteworthy: the AARP and the Heritage Foundation. That pretty well sums up the broad ideological diversity, shall I say, of the organizations that support this rescue package. I ask unanimous consent to have that list printed in the Record at the end of my remarks.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

(See Exhibit 1.)

Mr. McCONNELL. Also, Madam President, I would say to my conservative friends who had reservations about this, the National Review supports this package. I mentioned that the Heritage Foundation supports the package. With mixed levels of enthusiasm, the columnists Charles Krauthammer and George Will would support the package. Larry Kudlow, the conservative commentator on CNBC, supports the package. Of course, the Wall Street Journal supports the package. Even Newt Gingrich, an early critic, said, when pressed a couple days ago, if he were here he would vote for the package.

So, Madam President, with that, I yield the floor.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Groups Supporting a Bi-Partisan Financial Rescue Package


2. Air Conditioning Contractors of America

3. Air Transport Association of America

4. Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers

5. Aluminum Association

6. American Apparel and Footwear Association

7. American Bankers Association

8. American Boiler Manufacturers Association

9. American Business Conference

10. American Chemistry Council

11. American Concrete Pressure Pipe Association

12. American Council of Life Insurers

13. American Electronics Association

14. American Electric Power

15. American Financial Services Association

16. American Forest & Paper Association

17. American Hotel & Lodging Association

18. American Institute of Architects

19. American Land Rights Association

20. American Land Title Association

21. American Meat Institute

22. American Rental Association

23. American Resort Development

24. American Society of Appraisers

25. American Trucker Association

26. Americans for Prosperity

27. Appraisal Institute

28. Associated Builders and Contractors

29. Associated Equipment Distributors

30. Associated General Contractors

31. Association for Manufacturing Technology

32. Association of American Railroads

33. Association of Equipment Manufacturers

34. Association of International Automobile Manufacturers

35. Business Council for Sustainable Energy

36. Building Owners and Managers Association, International

37. Business Roundtable

38. California Chamber of Commerce

39. Consumer Bankers Association

40. Consumer Mortgage Association

41. Consumer Mortgage Coalition

42. CTIA--the Wireless Coalition

43. Duke Energy

44. Edison Electric Institute

45. Equipment Leasing and Finance Association

46. Farm Bureau

47. Financial Services Forum

48. Financial Services Roundtable

49. Food Marketing Institute

50. Ford

51. Heritage Foundation

52. Housing Policy Council

53. Independent Community Bankers of America

54. Independent Electrical Contractors

55. Independent Petroleum Association of America

56. Information Technology Industry Council

57. International Council of Shopping Centers

58. International Dairy Foods Association

59. International Franchise Association

60. International Paper

61. Investment Company Institute

62. Manufacture Housing Institute

63. Microsoft

64. Minority Business Roundtable

65. Mortgage Bankers Association


67. National Apartment Association

68. National Association of Counties

69. National Association of Chain Drug Stores

70. National Association of Electrical Distributors

71. National Association of Federal Credit Unions

72. National Association of Home Builders

73. National Association of Industrial and Office Properties

74. National Association of Manufacturers

75. National Association of Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Contractors

76. National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers

77. National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts

78. National Association of Realtors

79. National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors

80. National Automobile Dealers Association

81. National Black Church Initiative

82. National Education Association

83. National Electrical Contractors Association

84. National Federation of Independent Business

85. National League of Cities

86. National Lumber and Building Materials Dealers Association

87. National Multi Housing Council

88. National Restaurant Association

89. National Retail Federation

90. National Roofing Contractors Association

91. National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

92. NPES--The Association of Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies

93. Moran Industries

94. Printing Industries of America

95. Real Estate Roundtable

96. Reinsurance Association of America

97. Retail Industry Leaders Association

98. Savings Coalition

99. Securities Industry & Financial Markets Association

100. Semiconductor Industry Association

101. Software & Information Industry Association

102. Technet

103. US Chamber of Commerce

104. US Telecom

105. Verizon

106. Whirlpool


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