Do-Nothing Congress

Floor Speech

By:  Barney Frank
Date: Sept. 21, 2012
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. I thank the Democratic whip, and I thank him for the leadership he provided during his years as majority leader when we were able to do some things.

You know, we're talking about what this Congress

didn't do. I suppose in some ways we ought to be happy because some of what they said they wanted to do would have been totally destructive.

This is the party that let the financial community run riot for years when they had both the White House and both Houses of Congress, did no regulation, so that we got the worst recession in 80 years, a near depression, because of their irresponsibility. They were threatening to undo it. Unfortunately, they were able to accomplish one thing.

One of the things we did was to give the Federal regulatory agencies the power to regulate derivatives, a serious, obscure, powerful instrument that was a major cause of our crisis. While they were not able to repeal the rules, they were able to reduce the funding of the agencies that have to deal with this complex matter to a level where they have not been very effective.

So that's one of the things they were able to do--undo by financial stealth what we tried to get done.

But I want to come to their defense to some extent, Mr. Whip, because there may be some implication that they're not willing to work hard. No, let's be very clear. The reason we have such a dismal record here is not because they are lazy, our Republican colleagues. It's more because of a word that rhymes with ``lazy,'' which the House rules will prohibit me from using.

The problem is this: in 2010, a significant number of Republicans were elected who do not understand the importance of governance in a free enterprise society in which there has to be a vigorous private sector creating goods and
services and a public sector that works with it.

That's why we have no postal bill, although the Senate passed one; why we have no agricultural bill; why they couldn't pass a highway bill and had to be dependent on the Democratic Senate to pass one, so they could catch on to it.

They simply do not understand the importance of our coming together and doing things in this complex economic society that cannot be done by the private sector.

It is an extremism. It is not laziness. It is extremism that grips the Republican Party so they are not able to discharge the normal functions of government.

By the way, there is one particular inaction that I want to stress. It has to do with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. When my Republican friends are out of power, they know exactly what to do about housing. When they're in power, they forget. It's a peculiar form of amnesia.

From 1995 until 2006, they controlled the Congress and did nothing about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We came into office in 2007. At the request of Henry Paulson, George Bush's Secretary of the Treasury, we took action and put them in a conservatorship and stopped them from losing money.

The next step was to go forward with replacing them. We said that we would do that. We did financial reform first. The Republicans said, in 2009 and 2010, you must do reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and we thought financial reform came first because we already stopped the bleeding. Then they came to power in 2011, and they've done nothing.

The reason they've done nothing about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the reason they've done nothing about the post office and agriculture and couldn't do anything about the highways is very simple: they are a party torn between extremists and people who are afraid of extremists. People who will not take them on. A Speaker who will not bring an agriculture bill to the floor that might very well pass because he's intimidated by his own Tea Party extremist wing which rules him.

They could not come forward with housing legislation because what a majority knows should be done to put in some kind of Federal-private cooperation without the mistakes we've made in the past, they couldn't get the votes for it because their extremists had a veto over it.

Last point, Mr. Whip. I want to talk a little bit about bipartisanship.

In 2007, things began to buckle in our financial system. I, as the chairman of the committee, worked closely with Mr. Paulson to deal with it. In 2008, the Bush administration came to us, and you know what they wanted? You remember, a stimulus. That terrible word ``stimulus.'' George Bush, that radical, and Ben Bernanke, his appointee, the Chairman of the Fed, and Hank Paulson, his Secretary of Treasury, said, Let's do a stimulus.

This Democratic leadership worked with them. Then-Speaker Pelosi negotiated with them. We did a bipartisan stimulus.

Then later on when the economy began to collapse because of financial dissolution, Hank Paulson came to us and asked for cooperation, and we gave him cooperation.

From 2007 through 2008, we had a very bipartisan approach in the economic crisis. Then one thing happened: Barack Obama became President and bipartisanship disappeared because extremism took over the Republican Party, first when they were in the minority and now when they are in the majority. That's why nothing has happened.

I thank the whip.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for his very cogent comments. I would remind him the Leader talked about that, and he's talked about it.

Mr. Speaker, I think you will recall--George Bush, Republican President of the United States; Hank Paulson, Republican Secretary of the Treasury; and Ben Bernanke, who I think is neither Republican nor Democrat but appointed by the Republican President.

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. He was a registered Republican but was three times appointed by George Bush to high economic positions.


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