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Public Statements

Financial Regulatory Reform

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BURRIS. Mr. President, when I came to Washington over a year ago, this country faced an economic crisis greater than anything we have seen in generations. So my colleagues and I set out to work. Under President Obama's strong leadership, we passed a landmark stimulus package that stopped the bleeding. We did what was necessary to prevent a complete economic collapse and set America back on the road to recovery.

Since that time, we have come a long way. Many key economic indicators have started to turn around, but we are not out of the woods yet. The economy has started to grow again, but unemployment is still too high, and rampant foreclosures continue to threaten families in my home State and across the country. During the first 3 months of this year, almost 15,000 homeowners went into foreclosure in Illinois alone. Despite our best efforts to modify mortgages to make them more affordable, that is twice as many foreclosures as we saw during the same period last year. This is unacceptable. We are making progress, but it simply isn't enough.

Today, America no longer stands at the brink of disaster, but we are still vulnerable to the same recklessness that led to this crisis in the first place. For years, at big corporations such as Goldman Sachs, Wall Street bankers packaged bad mortgages together and sold them to investors. They knew these investment vehicles would inevitably fail, so they turned around and bet against them. They bet against the American people. They sought to make a profit off of the misfortunes of their own customers. They allegedly committed fraud, and that is why they are currently being sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission on behalf of the American people. As a former banker, I understand the seriousness of this misconduct. I know it continues to pose a dramatic threat to the American financial system.

That is why we need to pass strong financial reform to prevent bad behavior on Wall Street from sinking ordinary folks on Main Street. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the reform legislation introduced by Senator Dodd. This bill would prevent Goldman Sachs and other companies from getting us into a mess in the first place, and it can help ensure that we will never end up in this position again.

This legislation creates a consumer protection bureau designed to shield ordinary Americans from unfair, deceptive, and abusive financial practices. It would establish an oversight council tasked with keeping a close eye on emerging risks so that we are never taken by surprise again. It would end so-called too big to fail, protect taxpayers from unnecessary risks, and eliminate the need for future bailouts.

This bill would also increase transparency and accountability for banks, hedge funds, and the derivative market, so a big company such as Goldman Sachs would not be able to get away with their alleged fraud anymore.

These basic reforms will establish clear rules of the road for the financial services industry so we can keep the market free and fair without risking another economic collapse. But if we fail to take action, if we do not pass this reform bill, then we will be right back where we started, with no safeguards against this kind of deception and abuse in the future. I call upon my colleagues to join me in supporting Senator Dodd's bill when it comes to the floor this week. I ask my friends on both sides of the aisle to stand with me on the side of the American people. Let us pass financial reform legislation, and let's do it without delay.

I yield the floor.

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