Executive Sessionby Senator Sherrod Brown
Posted on 2014-01-06
BROWN. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order
for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. BROWN. Madam President, for those who do not remember or those who do not choose to remember, 5 years ago our economy was at the brink of collapse after being rocked by a financial crisis because of incompetence, Wall Street greed, overreach in the financial sector, and more. Washington had let the financial system run wild through deregulation. Banks had overloaded on toxic mortgage securities that they used massive amounts of leverage to purchase. In many cases these Wall Street banks were so large, so complex, so opaque, so overleveraged, they were too big to fail.
Increasingly, these banks are too big to manage and too big to regulate. I remember that time well. I was in Zanesville, OH, when I first got a call to discuss what we needed to do from Chairman Bernanke and President Bush's Secretary of the Treasury Paulson. Five years since the collapse of the markets, 3 years after the passage of the Wall Street reform law, we still cannot say that the Dodd-Frank legislation ended this problem.
In July of last year, Chairman Bernanke said: I wouldn't be saying the truth if I said that the problem is gone. It is not gone.
That is the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.
At her nomination hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, Governor Yellen, then the Vice Chair--still the Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve--said that ending ``too Big to Fail'' is ``among the most important goals of the post-crisis period.'' That is one of the many reasons I rise today to support and argue for Janet Yellen's confirmation as the Chair of the Federal Reserve. In today's complex financial system, it is more important than ever that we have strong regulators such as Governor Yellen who can recognize emerging threats to economic stability and who are not afraid to act when they find abuses that put American consumers and workers at risk.
Throughout her distinguished career at the Fed of more than a decade, Governor Yellen has shown she understands how risky financial practices deep inside the largest Wall Street banks can have a terrible and terrifying impact on American families. She was, 8 or 9 years ago, among the first to recognize the housing bubble that wiped out trillions in wealth and led to the biggest recession since the Great Depression.
In the years since the crash, Governor Yellen has been a voice on the [[Page S14]] need for strong, sensible regulation to protect American workers and small businesses instead of the too-big-to-fail banks. While there are many failures that led the economy to the brink of collapse, one of the biggest mistakes on the Federal level was not keeping the average American's financial interest in mind. There is far too much bias in this institution toward Wall Street instead of Main Street.
Most people in my home State of Ohio, in the Presiding Officer's home State of Hawaii, are not millionaires. They are automakers in Lordstown, steelworkers in Cleveland, they are farmers in Darke County, they are hairdressers in Toledo, they are police officers in Columbus. They are the people who make the products we depend on every day.
My State produces more than any but two States in the United States. They are the people who make these products, who teach our children, who protect our communities. They are the average hard-working Americans trying to create a better life for their children. And they, along with millions of other Americans, deserve better than the crisis that we allowed to happen.
Over the years, Washington, the Fed in particular, has too often lacked an important connection to Americans whose lives are so affected by the decisions it makes. Few have been able to keep a perspective where they understand what is happening in middle America, among working-class Americans, among middle-class Americans.
When President Lincoln was in office, he would go out and meet regularly with ordinary Americans either in the White House or outside the White House. While his staff implored him to stay in the White House and win the war and free the slaves and save the Union, President Lincoln said: I need to go out and get my public opinion bath.
We have also seen the new pope, Francis I, exhort his parish priests to ``smell like the flock''--to get among them, to understand their lives as much as possible, to drink the water they drink, to be among them, to learn from them and to listen to them. We must know those whom we serve.
In a speech last year before the AFL-CIO, Janet Yellen described the real-world implications of unemployment and noted that the unemployed are not just statistics. She took stock of the work ahead for the Fed, notably ensuring that Dodd-Frank is fully implemented in ending ``too big to fail.'' I think she will break out of the beltway bubble. I think she will get out in the country far more than any of her predecessors have done and consider the lives and work to understand the lives of those people affected by these Federal Central Bank decisions.
As Chair of the Fed Subcommittee on Communications, she has played a strong role in monetary policy and its efforts to put people back to work, despite Congress's unwillingness--this body's unwillingness--to help. Whether it is extending unemployment benefits, which we should be doing today, whether it is raising the minimum wage, it means engaging in the lives and helping people in this country who may not be as privileged as those of us who have the opportunity to serve in the Senate.
Janet Yellen is qualified to take the helm of the Fed and make history in becoming the first woman to run the Central Bank.
In confirming Ms. Yellen, we can look forward to a new era of recovery and growth. I look forward to working with Janet Yellen and her staff.
I urge my colleagues to confirm Janet Yellen to be Chair of the Federal Reserve.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. All time has expired.
The question is, Will the Senate advise and consent to the nomination of Janet L. Yellen, of California, to be Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System? Mr. COBURN. I ask for the ayes and nays.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second? There appears to be a sufficient second.
The clerk will call the roll.
The assistant legislative clerk called the roll.