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MSNBC "Interview With Senator Bill Nelson" - Transcript


Location: Washington, DC

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MR. MATTHEWS: Let's go right now to Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, who is part of the hosting situation down there, you're hosting this town meeting.

What do you think the president has to do to bring together the House and the Senate and make this bill happen, senator?

SEN. NELSON: Well, Chris, I wish I were hosting it, but I'm in Washington because we're just getting ready to vote on the final passage on the stimulus bill.

The president made his case last night. He's making his case right now in Ft. Myers. People are hurting. He went to Ft. Myers because it's the highest foreclosure rate in the country and the president deserves a chance to jumpstart this economy. You've got to do it with what we're going to vote on in a couple of minutes, which is a big stimulus, a combination of tax cuts, as well as spending and you've got to do with it in tandem what the Secretary of the Treasury announced today, get more money into the banks, take away the toxic assets, get money in to rework the mortgages, which was the problem that started the downward spiral in the first place, combination of all of that is going to work.

MR. MATTHEWS: What's going to happen to people that bought homes at very high prices, when the prices were very high a couple of years ago when they had good incomes? Now, the prices of the homes have dropped dramatically. Their incomes have dropped dramatically, yet they face big mortgage payments, which have ballooned under these ARM mortgages? What happens to that person?

SEN. NELSON: Well, a certain level is going to have to go in and rework the mortgages so people can stay in their homes because a foreclosed home is a downer on the entire neighborhood. The bank doesn't make any money and so forth. But that's the whole point of what the Secretary of the Treasury announced today, how do you turn around by going in and taking these toxic assets off the banks' books and allow the private marketplace to come in and invest in those assets, those troubled assets by giving government guarantees? We've never done this before, Chris.

We're learning as we -- we're making it up as we go, but we've got to try and that is why you see uncertainty out there, but I think you're going to get a jolt of renewed confidence as a result of these bold steps.

MR. MATTHEWS: You know what is really ugly to think about, the fact that the government is selling these toxic assets to whoever will buy them and you can imagine the interesting customers who will want to buy them, who feel that they can turn them into wealth and at the other end, there's the guy or the woman still trying to hold onto their property and then you have this very predatory person coming to get and collect and make value out of these toxic assets. Someone wants to get that house back perhaps from the homeowner because they bought a property they couldn't afford and will never to be able to make the payments. On the other hand, the government wants to help the property owner.

Which side are we on, the person who wants to clear these assets and get rid of these toxic assets by foreclosing? Or the person who doesn't want to be foreclosed?

SEN. NELSON: That's where the Secretary of the Treasury announced today that he's trying to go right down so you help the homeowner renegotiate the mortgage that they can stay in, but you get the private marketplace to come in and buy up assets with government guarantees instead of the government taking over all of those assets, and that is a delicate line to walk.

So we're going to see if it works, but at least someone is boldly stepping forth and trying.

MR. MATTHEWS: Just to give us a little sense of your state of Florida, which we all look at as one of the wonderful opportunities, young people go to Florida, it's a great place to move to if you're young, I've always been told this.

What's going on down there? What is the problem with all these foreclosures? How did it happen there?

SEN. NELSON: It happened in Ft. Myers because you had that real estate bubble, the entire local economy was built around growth and construction. People were getting loans to build houses and buy houses that they could not afford. Banks were not checking their due diligence to make sure that the person could stay in and then when the bubble burst and all of those securities on Wall Street that were tied to that revenue coming in for mortgages started to go the opposite direction, then the whole thing came crashing down.

Ft. Myers, Lee County, Florida, is the saddest example of this in the country and that's why it holds the distinction of being the highest foreclosures in the country.

MR. MATTHEWS: When you look down the road, senator, you've been in politics awhile, when you look down the road the next three or four years, give me a good scenario of how we get out of this mess? Looking at what the president has proposed, what you see passing the Congress next week? What's a good outlook if there is one?

SEN. NELSON: Well, you're going to get a number of tax cuts that are going in to stimulate business and small business and investment in things that we need down the line like green energy. You're going to get a big tax credit for people to buy homes, not necessarily just their first purchase of a home. So you can see how just through the tax code, not even talking about the spending that's going to go in and jumpstart the economy on roads and other infrastructure, broadband application, all of this, you get that jolt into the economy with the Secretary of the Treasury trying to improve the financial condition of the banks and do something about the mortgages, in tandem, those two things you ought to see an improvement as we get into 2010 and then toward the latter part of 2010.

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Senator Bill Nelson. I think you have to go and vote on this big economic recovery bill right now.

Thank you for joining us on MSNBC.

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