Senate Democrats

Reid: Democrats Ready To Address Housing Crisis While Republicans Continue To Stall

Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate, urging quick action to address the nationwide housing crisis.  This week Senate Democrats will move to reconsider the Foreclosure Prevention Act, a bill that will keep families facing foreclosure in their homes, help other families avoid foreclosures in the future, and help communities already harmed by foreclosure to recover.  Senate Republicans blocked an earlier attempt to debate the bill last month. 

Below are Reid’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Seventy-six years ago, Franklin Roosevelt, then Governor of New York State, was engaged in a fierce presidential campaign.  The country was reeling from the stock market crash of 1929.  Consumer confidence in banks had plummeted.  The Great Depression was in full force.  And the American people had lost confidence that President Herbert Hoover had what it took to lead the country out of the darkness.

“In April of 1932, Governor Roosevelt, seeking the Democratic nomination for President, took to the radio waves and said this: ‘I do not want to limit myself to politics.  I do not want to feel that I am addressing an audience of Democrats or that I speak merely as a Democrat myself.  The present condition of our national affairs is too serious to be viewed through partisan eyes for partisan purposes.’

“He went on to say that troubled times call for us to ‘put [our] faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid. … The $2 billion dollar fund which President Hoover and Congress have put at the disposal of big banks, the railroads and the corporations is not for [the average person].  Here should be an objective of government itself – to provide at least as much assistance to the little fellow as it is now giving to the large banks and corporations.  This is [an] example of building from the bottom up.’

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Recently the Federal Reserve provided taxpayer money as a guarantee to prevent the collapse of Bear Stearns.  The Fed took the additional unprecedented step of opening its discount lending window to securities firms, even though – unlike banks – those firms aren’t regulated by the fed.

“I understand the need to take bold steps.  I believe the Federal Reserve is doing what they think is best in the face of a deep and growing economic crisis.  While on principle, the spirit of capitalism would call for Wall Street firms to shoulder the burden of loss along with the spoils of profit, it is incumbent upon our government to look out for the greater good.

“But we must not neglect the lessons of history.  If we agree that it is the responsibility of government to provide liquidity and security to the titans of Wall Street – and we do – then how can we think it is any less our responsibility to do the same for Main Street?

“The American people are suffering.  We are paying more than ever for gasoline, groceries, and heat for our homes.  Home values are falling – nearly 12 percent in January.  Millions face foreclosure and communities are suffering.  This crisis is real, it is immediate, and it calls for Congress to take action.

“Every day that we sit on our hands is another day closer to another American family losing their home.  This is not the time for politics or partisanship.  It’s a time to do the right thing – the responsible thing – for the American people.

“Last work period, Democrats introduced a housing bill.  Our bill is not a catch-all or a silver bullet.  But financial experts agree it is a good start.  If passed into law today, it would have an immediate positive impact on struggling homeowners and hard-hit neighborhoods.

“These are the five points of our plan:

  • First – we help families keep their homes by increasing funds for pre-foreclosure counseling.
  • Second – we expand refinancing opportunities for homeowners stuck in bad loans.
  • Third – we provide funds to help the highest-need communities purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed properties, as well as tax relief to struggling businesses affected by the housing downturn.
  • Fourth – We help families avoid foreclosure in the future by improving loan disclosures and transparency during the original loan and refinancing process.
  • And fifth – we amend the bankruptcy code to allow home loans on primary residences to be modified – only in certain circumstances, with very strict guidelines.

“It is time to pass this bill.  Last work period, Republicans blocked a vote on it.  One Republican Senator said that all Republicans wanted was the opportunity to propose amendments.  The record will show – I have said this many times: Democrats are happy to allow amendments on both sides of the aisle.  We would like nothing more than a full, fair and open debate on this bill and how we might be able to make it even better.  I have told Senator McConnell and others – if Republicans object to parts of our bill, they are welcome to seek enough votes to amend it.  That is how the legislative process is supposed to work.

“Thus far, my Republican friends have not allowed this bill to proceed to the point at which amendments can be offered.  Tomorrow we will give the Republican side another opportunity to work with us.  We will seek cloture on the bill again.  And as I did before the last cloture vote that Republicans opposed, I reach out to Senator McConnell and all Republicans.

“I like Secretary Paulson very much.  His proposal is worth considering.  But it won’t do one single thing to address those currently in foreclosure.  We must do more.  We can’t sit on our hands.  We can’t take a wait-and-see approach.  We can’t embrace the status quo as the economy continues to deteriorate.

“Let’s reach an agreement on amendments.  Democrats have no agenda but to get this bill passed quickly and fairly, so that the American people can reap the benefits.  In America’s darkest economic hour, that was the leadership Franklin Roosevelt showed – and that is what we must do as we face our own crisis today.”