Senate Democrats

Reid: Where Is President Bush On Most Important Crisis In Generations?

Reid Calls on Bush to Explain to Nation’s Taxpayers Why They Must Bail out Wall Street Firms

Washington, DCSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate. The White House later announced the President will address the nation tonight.  Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery: 

“One of my parents’ heroes was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  One of the things they admired most about President Roosevelt was how he lifted our country out of the Great Depression by speaking directly to the American people on the radio – telling the truth and explaining plainly what needed to be done.  Another great President followed Roosevelt: Harry S Truman.  President Truman had a small carved wooden sign on his desk that said ‘the buck stops here.’

“Today we face what economists call the gravest economic danger since the Great Depression.  We’ve come to this point after eight years, of President Bush waging a war on fiscal responsibility.  His Republican philosophy of removing all accountability from big business – and expecting no responsibility from them in return – has created this crisis that now threatens to devastate America’s working families.

“President Bush put cronies and ideologues in charge of our most critical regulatory agencies, who ensured that special interests would always come before the common good.  In one example of particular irresponsibility, the Bush Administration refused to exercise its regulatory authority over the mortgage industry.  The President’s neglect allowed massive fraud and widespread predatory lending to pave the way for the largest mortgage crisis in American history – a crisis he continued to ignore long after the consequences of the plundering and pillaging of the mortgage market became clear.

“History will show that while all this was going on in the White House, Democrats in Congress were trying to restore fiscal sanity.  Here are a few examples:  In 2000, Senator Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the Banking Committee, introduced the Predatory Lending Consumer Protection Act to restrict abusive predatory lending practices.  The same year, Senator Schumer introduced the Predatory Lending Consumer Protection Act. 

“In 2002, Senator Sarbanes reintroduced his bill.  In 2004, Senator Sarbanes and the current chairman of the Banking Committee, Senator Dodd, called on the Federal Reserve to take action on alternative mortgages.  Senator Dodd called them a ‘nightmare’ for low-income Americans.

“In 2005, the House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation to reform the regulation of Government Sponsored Enterprises like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  After passing the House 331-90, the Democratic minority in the Senate tried to pass it, but we were blocked by the White House and Senate Republicans. 

“But when Representative Mike Oxley, a one-time chairman of the House Banking committee and a devout Republican, brought this legislation to the White House, the President gave him the cold shoulder and rejected the bipartisan plan.

“In February 2008, Senate Democrats introduced the Foreclosure Prevention Act, which was blocked by Senate Republicans after a veto threat from the White House.  In June 2008, the White House threatened to veto the Federal Housing Finance Regulatory Reform Act, which would have improved oversight of Fannie and Freddie.  The reason for the veto threat?  They just didn’t want to help communities struggling with foreclosures.  If the President had signed this bill in June, we perhaps could have saved the billions we now must spend to bail out Fannie and Freddie.

“In every one of these instances, Democrats saw the storm clouds gathering and attempted to pass legislation that could have steered our course away from the crisis we now face.  But every time, the White House and Congressional Republicans chose to continue along their own irresponsible path. “Which brings us to where we are now.  After ignoring Democrats in Congress and good fiscal sense for eight years, President Bush has sent Secretary Paulson and Chairman Bernanke to Congress to pitch his $700 billion bailout plan.

“I have said before that both Secretary Paulson and Chairman Bernanke are good men.  I believe that they both have the best interests of our country at heart.  But the testimony of yesterday’s Banking Committee hearing made it clear that Secretary Paulson and Chairman Bernanke have not yet successfully made the case for the Bush plan. 

“Democrats and Republicans raised serious questions about the plan, and I don’t believe anyone – Democrats or Republicans – felt those questions were sufficiently answered.  As our country prepares to face the consequences of George Bush’s fiscal dereliction of duty, Congress is prepared to act as quickly as we responsibly can.  But the Congress and especially the American people have a right to know this: where is President Bush?

“President Bush has sent Congress an unprecedented $700 billion bailout proposal – $700 billion straight from the pockets of every single man, woman and child in America.  Yet President Bush has been absent from what may well be the most important debate on economic policy in a generation.

“Other than two brief statements to the press – and a press release admonishing the Congress to accept his bailout plan immediately – President Bush has been silent.  We must not forget: George Bush is still the President of the United States.  It is time for him to address our country. 

“It is time for him to explain how eight years of deregulation policies have brought us to this dangerous ground.  It is time for him to explain why his Administration sat on its hands for months and only now has come to realize the need for immediate and unprecedented government action.  It is time for him to explain how he could tell our country for months that our economy was fine – yet overnight, declare that if American taxpayers don’t accept his bailout bill, our country will face an economic disaster.

“And most importantly, it is time for him to explain how his plan – drafted literally under cover of darkness – will help America weather this storm.

“This is not the Paulson plan.  This is not the Bernanke plan.  This is not the Congress’s plan.  This is the Bush plan.  It is time for him to take ownership and demonstrate leadership.  He is our President, and it is time for him to realize that the buck stops with him.  If President Bush is serious about passing legislation quickly, he should address our country to make his case.  Then he should seek to work with members of both parties to reach a responsible solution that American workers, families, small and large businesses all desperately need.”