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Public Statements

Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BURRIS. Mr. President, for years at big corporations such as Goldman Sachs, Wall Street bankers packaged bad mortgages 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. That is what they did when they put these packages together. They sought to make a profit off the misfortunes of their own customers.

Tonight we stand at the brink of a real debate on this topic, but our Republican colleagues will not even agree to let us move forward. We have to debate whether we are going to debate. Main Street suffered the most challenging economic situation in a generation. It has been made clear tonight who the Republicans stand with--they stand with Wall Street--because we are debating to debate.

After the breathtaking scope of the economic crisis that America is only now coming to terms with, how can we simply refuse to move forward, refuse to debate this critical legislation? We are debating to debate--unbelievable. We have to debate to debate about fair, meaningful reform while Wall Street continues to pose a systemic threat to the American financial system.

I know a little bit about the financial system. I am probably the only one here who is a banker. I spent my early years in the biggest bank of the State of Illinois, selling money for a living. I know about banking and I knew what Glass-Steagall would do at the time. It prevented us from getting into the insurance business, the investment banking business, and banks were still able to grow and to make loans to the various entities that needed the loans. That is what we were there for, to assist businesses to grow and provide capital and make sure they would be successful and repay their loans.

As a matter of fact, I financed some of the most difficult businesses in the State of Illinois. We had a government-guaranteed loan section for startup businesses. I loaned $1 million to a church-owned hospital, the first Black church-owned hospital in America. I financed that in 1969 with a $1 million loan. Guess what. The hospital paid every penny of that money back to our bank, plus we made interest on it. It wasn't a giveaway; it was not any type of charity; it was a business transaction to help the community. That is what banks ought to be doing. That is why we need to pass strong financial reform, to prevent bad behavior on Wall Street from sinking ordinary folk on Main Street. I know a little bit about Main Street because that is where I financed those businesses.

I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the reform legislation introduced by Senator Dodd, the distinguished Senator who put his life into this business, trying to make sure we have some type of financial security for the people and not a bunch of people who are going around ripping off folk and getting rich off of the work of other people. This bill would have prevented Goldman Sachs and other companies from getting into this mess in the first place and it can help ensure that we will never end up in this position again.

I hope so, but we don't know what will come up. I heard Senator Warner on the floor today. Senator Warner was saying he might not know what will happen and probably won't. But I hope when we get this legislation to debate--the legislation we are debating to debate--it will never happen again. But first we need to agree to debate the bill on the floor.

I ask my colleagues on the right to simply talk and debate about the ideas on this bill. I want Glass-Steagall. I am cosponsor of the amendment for the Glass-Steagall Act to come back. This legislation will create a consumer protection bureau designed to shield ordinary Americans from unfair, deceptive, and abusive business practices. As a former attorney general, I know what it is, in so many of these financial situations, mistreating our consumers. I defended those consumers tremendously during my years as Attorney General of the State of Illinois. I want the bill to establish an oversight task force to keep an eye on emerging risks so we will not be taken by surprise again. It will end too big to fail, protect taxpayers from unnecessary risk, and eliminate the need for future bailouts.

This bill would also increase transparency and accountability for banks, hedge funds, and the derivative market. Some people don't even know what they are doing about it, so big companies such as Goldman Sachs won't be able to get away with fraud anymore. These basic reforms will establish clear rules of the road for the financial service 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 legislation, if we even fail to move forward on this simple procedural motion on the debate to debate, then we will be right back where we started--no safeguards against this kind of deception and abuse in the future.

I call on my colleagues to join me in supporting moving on to Senator Dodd's bill. Let's move on to it and get on with the business of debating the bill and not debating to debate. I ask my friends on both sides of the aisle to stand with me on the side of the American people. Let's move to debate this financial reform legislation without delay.

I yield the floor.


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