Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor in support of the conference report of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which passed the House this evening by a vote of 237 to 192. The legislation now goes to the Senate, which is expected to approve it soon and send it to President Obama for his signature into law. Below are the Speaker's remarks.
“As I listen to the debate here, I can't help but remember, and I have vivid memory of it, a couple of years ago, almost two years ago, September 18th, a Thursday afternoon. We were gathered in our office and had just seen the week and a half preceding, a week and a half to two weeks preceding that day, some unusual events that related to Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and then AIG and the Fed bailout of AIG. I called the Secretary of the Treasury and said: ‘We are meeting here in my office and wondered if we could be helpful in any way in terms of public policy because what we have seemed to see coming out from the executive branch is chaos--different responses to different challenges that were not adding up to us. Could you, Mr. Secretary, come to the Congress tomorrow and give us a report on what is happening?'
“The Secretary said, and I said: ‘Could you be here 9:00 tomorrow morning to tell us what is happening to the markets?' The Secretary said, Secretary Paulson said: ‘Madam Speaker, tomorrow morning will be too late. Tomorrow morning will be too late.' ‘Why, Mr. Secretary, have you not notified Congress? Why have you not called us sooner? Why would it take a call from me to ask you to report to us to tell us that tomorrow morning will be too late?'
“Without going into his response, which I am happy to do but in the interest of time I won't now, I then called the Chairman of the Fed, Chairman Bernanke, and asked him to join the Secretary of the Treasury at my office later that day. The meeting turned into a meeting that was House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, gathered together to hear from the Secretary of the Treasury the condition of the markets. The Secretary who had told us that we couldn't even wait until the next morning described a very, very grim situation. The Chairman of the Fed, who was an expert on the Great Depression, told us that the situation was so grim that if we did not act immediately, there would be no economy by Monday. This is Thursday night. There would be no economy by Monday. How could it be? We, the greatest country in the world with the strongest economy. And that we needed to act immediately. The response from the Bush Administration was a bailout of the banks. In a 24-hour, 48-hour period, they produced a bill--$700 billion that they asked the Congress to pass to bail out the banks.
“It was necessary to do because of the recklessness of the Bush Administration's economic policies, because of the lack of supervision, discipline, regulation. The recklessness on Wall Street had taken us to the brink of a financial crisis of such magnitude that the Chairman said there wouldn't be an economy by Monday. Took us into deep recession where 8.5 million jobs were lost, people lost their jobs, therefore in many cases their health insurance. They lost their pensions. They lost their savings. They had to live off savings and lost their investments for their children's education. Because of recklessness on Wall Street, joblessness is rampant on Main Street.
“One of the reasons was there was no credit. It is interesting to hear my colleagues talk about the importance of credit to Main Street when not one of them voted for the Small Business Credit bill that passed in this Congress about a week ago.
“But in any event, joblessness, lack of credit, suppressing the entrepreneurial spirit of the United States of America because there were some, not all, but some on Wall Street who decided it was okay to privatize the gain as long as they were making money and nationalize the risk. Send the bill to the taxpayer, when they were not. That's why we are here today. To make sure that never happens again. To say to them that the party is over.
“And it is interesting to note, that in that message, not one Republican participated when this bill came to the floor originally. And that was the end of last year. Years of allowing Wall Street to do anything it wants, beyond laissez-faire, to be overleveraged, no transparency, no accountability, produced the most severe financial crisis and economic downturn since the Great Depression and the American people paid the price. Again, 8 million jobs, nearly $17 trillion in net worth disappeared. A record number of foreclosures ravaged our communities. And again, credit disappeared from small businesses. This also had a tremendous impact on construction in our country because of the lack of loans.
“Today, I rise with a clear message that the party is over. No longer again will recklessness on Wall Street cause joblessness on Main Street. No longer will the risky behavior of the few threaten the financial stability of our families, our businesses, and our economy as a whole.
“The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act has been appropriately named for Chairman Dodd and Chairman Frank, and I thank them for their leadership bringing this legislation before, in doing so in bringing this legislation before the Congress, Chairman Frank and Chairman Dodd are making history. For decades to come, their names will be identified with historic reforms to protect the economy of our country and the financial and economic security of the American people.
“I also want to acknowledge Chairman Peterson who carefully negotiated some of the most contentious provisions of this legislation, working with Chairwoman Lincoln on the Senate side. All of the Democratic conferees- I thank you for your commitment, for making the strongest bill possible, and for always putting America's consumers first.
“Today, we will follow the lead of those on the committee, enacting historic legislation to bring transparency to our financial markets, lowering the leverage that got us into this trouble into the first place, bringing tough oversight to Wall Street, and bringing consumer protections to Main Street and to the American people. By voting ‘yes,' we will pass the toughest set of Wall Street reform in generations.
“This comprehensive and far-reaching legislation injects transparency and accountability as it lowers leverage into the financial system run amuck under the Republicans' reckless economic policies. This legislation makes common-sense reforms that end the era of taxpayer bailouts and ‘too-big-to-fail' financial firms. It establishes a new, independent agency solely dedicated to protecting Americans from anti-consumer abuses. The bill closes the door on predatory lending and regulates payday lenders. It includes provisions to allow us to conduct oversight over the Fed, establishes tough rules for risky financial practices, enhances oversight for credit rating agencies and reigns in egregious CEO bonuses by giving shareholders a say in executive pay.
“It sheds light on the darkest corners of the derivatives market and is fully paid for. And how is it paid for? By shutting down the Bush-era bailout fund known as the TARP, and using the savings for financial reform.
“As you cast your votes today, each Member of this body faces a choice. You've had these choices before. Democrats wanted to rein in health insurance companies, Republicans said ‘no.' Democrats want to rein in Big Oil, the Republicans said ‘no.' Democrats want to rein in the recklessness of some on Wall Street, the Republicans are saying ‘no.'
“Each Member of this body will have a choice -- we can place our bet on the side of those on Wall Street who have gambled with our savings and lost, or we can stand with Main Street and the middle class. Will we preserve a status quo? And if this bill were to fail, we would be preserving a status quo that has left our economy in a wretched state. Or will we guarantee the American people strong reforms and effective vigilance to prevent another financial crisis?
“How can we possibly resist the change that must happen? How can we forget that the Chairman of the Fed said that if we do not act, we will not have an economy by Monday -- four days from when we were having the conversation? How can we let the status quo that created that condition to continue?
“I urge my colleagues to choose on the side of Main Street. I urge you to build a future of stability and security for America's families, consumers, and small businesses. I urge you to vote ‘aye' on the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.”