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  • Insular Areas and Freely Associated States Energy Development

    by Senator Nancy Pelosi

    Posted on 2014-12-11

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    PELOSI. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlelady for yielding, and I commend her for her tremendous leadership. With great pride, we point to her as our ranking member on the Appropriations Committee.

    I thank you for yielding and for your leadership.

    Thank you, Mr. Rogers, for your leadership.

    As an appropriator for many years, I know the hard work that goes into putting an appropriations bill together. There was a day when we did them individually. It seems lately we just keep putting them on a bus, an omnibus. That is too bad. But in any event, I appreciate the work you have done to bring this bill to the floor. That is why I was so really heartbroken. I don't think I have ever said that word on the floor of the House. I was heartbroken to see the taint that was placed on this valuable appropriations bill from on high.

    I am sorry that we cannot have a full homeland security bill, that is for sure. We knew that was possible. The Speaker says in January we will vote on a full homeland security bill. I hope that that is the case.

    But the taint I refer to is what the President described in his letter today as a rider that would amend the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and weaken a critical component of financial system reform aimed at reducing taxpayer risk.

    So when people are talking to you about what is in the bill and this or that, I am going to say to you what you are putting your name next to if you choose to vote for this bill. And why I am so appalled--well, I will tell you why.

    It was September 2008. Things were happening in the financial services industry. Lehman Brothers, down; Merrill Lynch, down; AIG, whatever. It all happened within a matter of days. I called the Secretary of the Treasury and I said: ``How can we be helpful? What is going on?'' He said: ``It is terrible.'' I said: ``Well, is one of the major financial institutions going down?'' He said: ``No, it is bigger than that. We are in a serious meltdown.'' ``Why am I calling you, Mr. Secretary Paulson?'' [[Page H9280]] ``Well, the White House wasn't ready for Congress to know about this. But you are the Speaker.'' At the time I was.

    ``I am the Secretary of the Treasury. You are asking me; I am telling you. We are in a terrible situation.'' So they came to my office that night, the Speaker's Office, House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans. We came together and we heard an appalling meltdown of our financial institutions.

    And I said to the Chairman of the Fed, Mr. Ben Bernanke, who was there: ``Mr. Bernanke, what do you think about what the Secretary said?'' He said: ``If we do not act immediately, we will not have an economy by Monday.'' We will not have an economy by Monday. By the policies that were in place at that time, we were taken to a place where we wouldn't have an economy. No commercial paper, no economy by Monday.

    {time} 1330 Here we are, 2014, going down the same path.

    Earlier today, the Republicans put a bill on the floor that would make certain tax incentives permanent and unpaid for. We should be doing revenue reform, but not that way, because the revenue policy of the Bush administration contributed to the Great Recession, taking us close to a depression. So their tax policy jeopardized our economy.

    Then, their laissez, laissez, laissez-faire attitudes of no regulation, that took us to a meltdown of our financial institutions to the point where we, the taxpayers, had to rescue the financial institutions to the tune of $700 billion. That is twice as much as in the domestic discretionary spending of the bills that will come before us--two-years' worth of non-defense discretionary domestic spending.

    We put provisions in the bill that the American taxpayer would be paid back. But that wasn't enough for the Republicans to vote for it. They voted against it, by and large. It was the Democrats who voted for the TARP, the most difficult vote for Members to vote for and the most politically harmful to them.

    So here we are in the House being blackmailed--being blackmailed--to vote for an appropriations bill. I am not asking anybody to vote one way or another. I am just telling you why I would not put the name of my constituents in my district next to a bill that does, as the President says, ``weaken a critical component of financial system reform aimed at reducing taxpayer risk.'' At that time, they accused us of bailing out Wall Street at the expense of Main Street. The public still doesn't understand fully why everybody would benefit from what we had to do. But we shouldn't have had to do that, $700 billion, because of laissez-faire attitudes and trickle-down tax policies of the Bush administration, which got us to that place. Because of initiatives taken by President Obama when he became President, working with the Democratic Congress, with our initial Recovery Act, we were able to reverse some of that, and pull ourselves out of the ditch Republicans took us in.

    So here we are today. This should be a day where we say, isn't it too bad we can't do more for the American people, but in the interest of bipartisanship we have put together a bill on the Appropriations Committee that helps meet the needs of the American people. Wouldn't that have been just fine? Except, popping out of the wilderness comes two things: one, this provision, this provision, as I described, that the President described, and then another one, to make matters worse--to make matters worse--a bill that lifts political contributions to such a height that it is really unimaginable as to why those who put this in there thought that that was a good idea. They told me it was $90,000 for the convention. It turned out to be millions of dollars from a donor or from a family in that regard. So they weren't even on the level of how it was portrayed.

    But be that as it may, what is important is what is in the bill. As Congressman Sarbanes said, it is ``quid pro quo.'' You have quid: give Wall Street what they want, relax the responsibility of that.

    This is a moral hazard. We are being asked to vote for a moral hazard. Why is this in an appropriations bill? Because it was the price to pay to get an appropriations bill. I was told we couldn't get all these other things that have been described here so beautifully unless we gave Wall Street this gift. And, on top of that, that we gave their donors, high-end donors, all the opportunity in the world to pour money into the process.

    Now, maybe the public is right about Washington, D.C. I heard this funny line about Lily Tomlin when she was Ernestine, the operator, when she said: ``Am I communicating with the people that I am speaking to?'' Are we communicating with the people we are speaking to when we say to them it is an important priority and we have to put it in our budget bill that we give donors the opportunity to spend endless money, undermining the confidence the American people have in our political system, at the same time--at the same time--as we say to Wall Street, you can engage in risky activity with your derivatives and the FDIC will ensure your action? That is just plain wrong.

    Under the Dodd-Frank Act, if a bank wanted to engage in those risky activities they had to be pushed out to another entity, and that entity could engage in those activities, but they were not insured by the American taxpayer.

    With this bill now we are saying the exposure, the recourse, is with the U.S. taxpayer. Just plain wrong--and what is it doing in an appropriations bill, except to have this bill be taken hostage? This is a ransom, this is blackmail. You don't get a bill unless Wall Street gets its taxpayer coverage.

    So it is really so sad that something which I respect enormously, the appropriation process--because it is hard. There are so many competing calls on resources, so much that we have to try to invest in the American people, their health, their education, the economic stability of their families, the air they breathe, the water they drink, and how we fund all of that. I have some questions about some of that in this bill, but the fact is it is all a compromise, and it could have been a good compromise. So whatever Members choose to do.

    I am enormously disappointed that the White House feels that the only way they can get a bill is to go along with this, and that would be the only reason I think they would say they would sign such a bill that would ``weaken a critical component of financial system reform aimed at reducing taxpayer risk.'' Those are the words in the administration's statement.

    I feel sad for the American people today, because we are saying in order for us to invest in the education of our children and all of the responsibilities we have to the American people, we have to pay off Wall Street in addition to that. And I don't begrudge Wall Street, and I don't paint everybody there with the same brush. But what I am saying is the taxpayer should not assume the risk. It is back to the same old Republican formula: prioritize the gain, nationalize the risk. You succeed, it is in your pocket; you fail, the taxpayer pays the bill. It is just not right.

    So I think we have a missed opportunity today to have some strong bipartisanship, and there will be bipartisan support for this bill. But the fact is, my colleagues, you are being asked to put your name next to privatizing the gain and nationalizing the risk. You are asked to put your name next to practically unlimited contributions to political campaigns just at a time when we are trying for reform to reduce the role of politics and money and increase the voice of the American people.

    So, again, a missed opportunity. But I respect decisions that Members will make because there are equities to be weighed here. But the biggest equity we have is our responsibility to the American people to do the right thing. What was added to this bill, which may be a good bill, what was added to this bill is not the right thing. That is why it has bipartisanship, it has good things in it, but it will not have my support.

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