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tv   [untitled]  CSPAN  June 16, 2009 3:00pm-3:30pm EDT

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than i thought i did. that's good news. mr. president, i wanted to move to a second topic in the remaining time with regard to the american recovery and reinvestment act but especially in regard to some of the attacks leveled in recent days. in just over 100 days now the recovery and reinvestment act is at work doing many things but in some reform providing immediate relief for communities an hard-hit families, secondly, creating and saving jobs fl thirdly, jump-starting thousands of shovel-ready projects across america. our economic problems were not created in 100 days and they will not be solved in 100 days or a little more than 100 days. thanks to the recovery act, we're meeting the greatest economic challenges in a generation head on. the early signs of progress across the country. a couple of examples of
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immediate relief measures under the act that are providing stability for hard-hit families. first, the making work -- the making work pay tax credit has increased take-home pay for 95% of working families. 95% of working families in america benefiting from that. i would note that in pennsylvania the number is 4.8 million households in pennsylvania benefiting from that tax credit. secondly, unemployment benefits have increased by $25 a week. third, cobra health insurance premiums have been cut by 65%. 54 million older citizens across the country have received $250 in emergency relief checks in the mail. and, finally, in this section food assistance benefits have increased by 13% just when vulnerable americans need them. tax credits and other recovery
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act incentives is starting to drive new consumer spending and creating new product demand. energy efficiency are providing fresh opportunities for manufacturers or contractors that make or install green products. and the $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit is proving to be a bright spot in the hard-hit housing industry. the recovery act aided to state governments is helping to protect critical safety net programs and saving teaching and law enforcement jobs. over half states have qualified for the state fiscal stablization funds that are saving teaching jobs and improving education. andtate governments are making up shortfalls in medicaid funds thanks to the recovery act. infrastructure improvement projects funded by the recovery act are bringing new jobs to hard-hit communities. over 20,000 -- 20,000 recovery
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act projects across the country have been approved already. in pennsylvania, just two quick examples, $725 million for highway projects allocated, $600,000 for airport grants. the recovery act commits to develop and commercialize new technologies that will be the foundation of the new economy that are starting to boost confidence and spur some private sector investment across the country. businesses are converting crisis to opportunity because of the promise they see with the recovery act. the act is already making life a little easier for families and businesses like these. and work is just getting started. last week the president, president obama and vice president biden, announced the road map to recovery. 10 new major projects that will define the recovery act. here's what the 10 are. number one, help 1,129 health
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centers provide expanded service to approximately 300,000 patients. begin work on 107 naisht parks, start rehabilitation and improvement projects at 8 airports and over 1,500 highway locations across the country. fund 125,000 education jobs including teachers, principals and support staff. number five, begin improvements at 90 veterans medical centers across 38 states. hire or keep on the job approximately 5,000 law enforcement officers. start 200 new waste an water system projects -- and water system prompts in rural america. number eight, begin or accelerate cleanup work at 20 superfund sites from the national priority list. number nine, create 125,000 summer youth jobs. and, finally, begin 2,300
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construction and rehabilitation projects at 359 military facilities across the country. and billions of dollars in recovery act programs that will shape the economy of the 21st century will launch in the weeks and months ahead. for example, $8 billion for high-speedail, $4.7 billion to connect more americans to broadband internet. $4.5 billion to make a smart energy grid a reality. $800 million to accelerate the use of biofuels and bring them to market. $300 million to expand the vehicles through the clean city program. this will get our economy moving today in a way that will change our economy for tomorrow. the road to recovery is long and our economic problems won't be solved overnight. but with every dollar invested and every project started under the recovery act, we are getting one step closer.
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and let me conclude with one thought. just as was the case when we voted on the recovery act, mr. president, and you were here with us when we vetted on that, it was a choice between are you for the recovery act or are you for the status quo? fortunately enough of us voted for it so that we could jump-start the economy, get the economy out of the ditch and get it back on the road to recovery. a long way to go still and a lot more work to do. so far the news is positive in communities across the the commonwealth of pennsylvania and i know in your state of illinois. and with that, mr. president, i would yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. mrs. lincoln: mr. president, i ask to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. linmrs. lincoln: thank you. i want to applaud my colleague from pennsylvania, talking about
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the jump-start bill, but, more importantly, not just our dreams but the things that are actively happening in our states, the great things, whether it is highway projects or for us in arkansas, the new market tax credits have been a -- we look at the s r s.b.a.-7-a loan, which has been tremendous for small businesses, education alone, i met with principals and administrators just last week when i was home talking about the opportunities for education and the infusion of resources coming from the recovery act along with water projects and broadband. the senator from pennsylvania did an excellent job in -- in mention those and, most importantly, focusing on the fact that this is what is going to help us get our country back on track, get our economy back on track and get working americans back to work or keep them in the jobs that they're clinging to. i appreciate him coming to the floor and mentioning some of
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that. all of us have seen as we travel to our states over the weekends and during the breaks. but mr. president, today i rise to pay tribute to a young man. army private william andrew long of con way, arkansas -- conway, arkansas. last week, mr. president, he was laid to -- laid to rest in north little rock. he was buried with full military honors an awarded the army commendation medal and army good conduct medal. private long was a loving son and brother and a friend whose life was tragically cut short on june 1st, in a senseless attack outside of the army-navy career center in little rock, arkansas. private quinten azugula was also injured in the attack. our thoughts and prayers are with him and we hope he makes a
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very speedily recovery. mr. president, private long had recently finished army training and sent to deploy to south korea. he was recruited from the army -- he was at the army recruiting office on that fateful day because he had volunteered to tell others with -- about his experience in the united states military. known to his friends and family as andy, private long will always -- always be remembered by all of us -- all of them for his boundless energy, his keen intelligence, his infectious smile and his great sense of humor. his country and all arkansans will remember him as a hero with the courage to serve his nation during a time of war. he will also be remembered as a young man whose life was ended way too soon. private long hailed from a fiercely patriotic family with
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four generations of uniform service to the united states. andy's great grandfather and grandfather served. both of his parents served. and his brother, private first class trysten long, continues to serve today and will be deployed to iraq later this summer. on behalf of my colleagues in the united states senate and the people of arkansas, i would like to take this moment to thank the long family for their extraordinary dedication and service to our nation. on that tragic day in little rock, andy was targeted in what i view as an act of terrorism because of the uniform that he wore. a uniform that stands as a symbol of this great country. ours is a nation, mr. president, where we resolve our differences through debate and democratic elections, not through violence. and that is a country where freedom is cherished and liberty is recognized as an inalienable
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right for all people. terrorism has absolutely no place in this country and as elected representatives of the people, it is our duty to ensure we are doing everything we can to combat terrorism, bring justice to its perpetrators and protect our communities and our families. and that's why i stand here today, mr. president, to put forth a resolution condemning the murder of private long and condemning the use of violence to achieve political ends. additionally, i call for the swift prosecution to the fullest extent of the law of the perpetrators of this senseless shooting. mr. president, the men and women of the u.s. armed forces risk their lives every day, both overseas an here on our own -- and here on our own soil in the united states. let it be known that their resolve will not and cannot be
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shattered. the ideals represented by the uniform worn by andy long, his parents, and the generations of brave american men and women before them still serves to represent liberty and justice for all. and no -- no act of terrorism can diminish that. it can only strengthen our resolve and reaffirm our commitment to america's most basic ideals and values. mr. president, our country owes a great debt to private long for his service as well as to the brave men and women in the armed forces who protect and defend the freedoms we cherish as americans each and every day. our thoughts and prayers go out to private long's family and to all of those who knew and loved him. we are all a grateful nation for incredible individuals like private andy long.
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thank you, mr. president. and i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from virginia. mr. warner: mr. president, i rise today to discuss the state of our financial system and to provide some thoughts on systematic risk regulation. as we set about crafting an overall reform for our financial regulatory approach. yesterday treasury secretary timothy th geithner and directof the economic council, laurence summers, published an editorial in "the washington post", laying out the broad outlines of their proposals for regulatory reform. i share their views on how we arrived at this moment. and i share the broader goals that they discuss and look forward to working with the
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administration on comprehensive and timely regulatory reform. however, i want to speak today about one area where i disagree, and that is how to address systematic risk. but let me step back for a moment. mr. president, the magnitude of the events of the past two years strains comprehension. i believe what we've seen over the last couple of years is the equivalent in economic terms of the 100 year flood. millions of families and retirees have lost their financial security. millions of people are out of work. each day we read about more layoffs, more losses, more bankruptcies and too many days more bank failures. we call this a financial crisis. but for the american people it is a very personal crisis of lost homes, derailed careers, deferred retirements,
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communitieses less cared for. and its core, the confidence of the american peep has been shaken. we all share the hope that we will soon return to a healthy, competitive financial market and a vibrant economy. but for our long-term prosperity, we do need a new model. we cannot shrink from tphaoepded reform because it will be difficult and because some will oppose it. to innovate and create jobs not only in the financial system, but across our whole economy, we do need comprehensive reform. quality will attract capital, but only change will restore the quality of our markets. this is the fundamental challenge facing the banking committee of which i'm a new member. however, before i joined this banking committee, before i joined this august body, i did spend 20 years in the private sector around the financial
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system, taking companies public, looking and learning about the market. so i came to this body, i believe, with some background. but only since that time have i learned how complex the problems and the challenges of trying to get financial re-regulation or financial reform right. so since joining the banking committee, i've been working to educate myself, meeting with a range of experts to learn more about the issues and collect their thoughts on potential solutions to financial re-regulation. so today i'd like to speak about one issue that i've discussed at length with these experts: systemic risk regulation. and i hope in the coming days to come back to this floor and discuss other parts around securities and banking regulation. systemic risk is a term that, quite candidly, probably most of us even around the financial markets hadn't heard of or thought much about until the last couple of years.
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obviously systemic risk isn't the only area we need to address, but it is an area in which the current system has unequivocally failed. systemic risk is a tricky concept. really systemic risk isn't a specific kind of risk at all. it's a catchall phrase that includes risks of all kinds united only by the possibility that if left uncontrolled they could have consequences for entire markets or even our entire financial system. because they come in all shapes and sizes, we should not expect to control systemic risk wary skwreud one-size-fits-all approach. our current system, our current system has failed to provide checks and balances and has replaced healthy competition with a system where a handful of firms are called too large to fail. and these so-called
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too-large-to-fail firms can threaten the safety of the entire system and unfortunately enjoy an complicit, for many now even more explicit, government guarantee that destroys any notion of market competition. secretary geithner and professor summers proposed empowering the federal reserve to manage systemic risk. but as i've discussed this approach with a number of experts, they have raised a number of what i think are very serious and legitimate concerns. my primary concern with placing this added new responsibility with the federal reserve is structural. there are already tensions between the federal reserve's responsibilities for the conduct of monetary policy and responsibilities for bank supervision. adding this additional responsibility on the federal reserve, i believe, is a step too far. my other concern is rooted in the tkpwofrg philosophy of this
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country which i think has quite honestly served us well. that philosophy is that too much economic power placed in one place puts our system of government at risk. our founding fathers opposed that concentration of power, economic or otherwise, in favor of a system of checks and balances. that's like america, unlike so many european countries, never created a single, all-powerful national bank. and we have, consequently even since that time, reality sifted -- resisted creating that central bank. in the experience of some countries which concentrated too much power in one entity i think should serve as a cautionary basis. we should not ignore the fed has had some responsibility for systemic risk regulation under the current structure and over the past year we've seen the tprefrbg and treasury strike private deals with our largest and most financial institutions, deals that might have protected
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the shareholders and creditors of those banks but consequently by those actions put smaller and less powerful and often better-run institutions at a competitive disadvantage. there's an old african proverb that says when elephants dance, the grass gets trampled. well, mr. president, we've got a trampled grass problem at this point and i don't think we can solve it with bigger elephants, whether those bigger elephants are regulators or institutions. but if we don't give the federal reserve the responsibility for systemic risk regulation, what should we do instead? i believe the answer to this question has two parts. the first part is that many systemic risks already lie squarely with the popbts of the day to day financial regulations. we need to make sure that our current regulators, the folks that most of the last century have done their jobs well, have
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clear missions, including managing risks within their regulated institutions and markets. and we must ensure that these regulators do their jobs. but that's only half the problem. even if we get the day-to-day regulator be more efficient in e valuing particular institutions. we've got to recognize some part of systemic risk may layout kwro*ut side of the regulator's day-to-day responsibilities that actually fall between the cracks of our existing regulatory system. working with folks across the financial spectrum, we've worked creating and suggesting the creation of a systemic risk council. i don't mean to claim on this floor, mr. president, the system p*eubg risk council is a silver but the let but it avoids the
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pitfalls of putting the responsibility with one agency, one agency that already has responsibilities and can serve as a potential source of conflict. instead a council can see across the horizon and gather all the information and expertise. thereby addressing our stovepipe problem of various regulatory agencies, making sure as well by having this council it wouldn't come the intrinsic conflicts that would come fulls had to have responsibility for monetary policy. making sure you have this council also would avoid the very real challenge of regulatory capture. let me briefly outline this concept. our belief would be that the systemic risk council who consists of the treasury secretary, the chairman of the federal reserve and the heads of the major financial regulatory agencies, it would be charged
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with forward working to improve our understanding and control of emergency risks. in an emergency would have the ability to act. people say what does this look like? it builds on the model of the president's working group on financial markets. my idea is the systemic risk council would have an independent chair appointed by the president and approved by the congress and supported by a permanent staff. in many ways the best analogy to the systemic risk council might be the resemblance it might bear to the national transportation safety board or the national security council. just as the ntsb leaves rule making to the f.d.a., the systemic risk council would leave most of the day to day rule making with the financial regulatory agency. but the systemic risk council -- and i understand criticisms of the council's approach today.
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we don't want to be debating at a moment of crisis. that is why it needs independent staff and resources. it would have the authority to review every bit of information that the individual day-to-day financial regulatory agencies possess, to require those agencies to collect information from the institutions they regulate. it would also have an independent staff capable of analyzing this data, understanding how the pieces of the regulatory system work together, and then at that staff level feed that information up to the council so we could identify weaknesses or caps within our system or potential systemic that might be arising outside the purview of the individual financial regulatory agency. the council would also have the authority to require the federal regulators to develop clear written plans for dealing with potential financial crises.
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in effect it would have the potential to ask any institution to come forward with a wind-down or resolution plan for each particular instance. again, if we put in place these kind of credible plans to handle the potential failure of every systemically important financial institution, then we will no longer have the excuse we heard over the last fuel months, gosh, it's tough we have to put up this public money to support this institution but it's just too big to fail. as we've seen in these crises, because we didn't have the plan in place the american taxpayers have taken on unfounded financial risk in shoring up these institutions. during normal times, the council could help to determine how to regulate new products and markets in order to minimize
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regulate gaps, regulatory arbitrage and the blind spots that currently exist in our system. as we know, at this point too many of those blind spots exist and nose blind spots would have allowed some of the problems in the financial products that ended up leading to the meltdown we have seen. the council would not identify firms too big or too large to fail but instead would work to prevent firms from becoming too large to fail. it would do this specifically in two ways. first, it would have the authority to establish system-wide counterpart exposure limits, increase capital requirements, reduce leverage and strengthen risk management requirements. all of these in effect to put not an absolute prescription, but at least barriers on those institutions that choose to get so large that they might fall in that too-big-to-fail authority. second, it would ensure the
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resolution authority would be able to exist to resolve any institution that got to that size and then potential posed a risk. in a crisis the council could work with member organizations to promote coordinated and comprehensive responses. the systemic risk council's responsibilities would be clear and focused. systemic risk would be its only job. mr. president, what i'm proposing today boils down to a simple, commonsense idea. if you want to do something constructive about systemic risk, we should create a mechanism that can help ensure that our regulators do their jobs on a day to day basis, avoid conflicts of interest and leveraging our resources for control of systemic risks. there are many details that still need to be worked out, and we will, as i mentioned have a series of other ideas about how
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we can modernize our financial system in the coming weeks ahead. but i believe that the general approach i've outlined today stpherpls a -- in terms of a systemic risk council hopefully will spark the debate so we don't default to further empowering an extraordinarily important and critical institution in terms of the federal reserve without a thorough debate about this issue. i ask unanimous consent that the full statement -- my full statement be made part of the record, and, mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: objection is so ordered. mr. kyl: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. kyl: the problems with the current state of health care in america are well known. republicans don't need to be convinced for the case for reform. we hear from our constituents who have concerns about their own health care dilemmas and those of their neighbors. we all agree that the millions of uninsured americans need access to high-health care.
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though we agree on the need for reform we have disagreements on how best to accomplish our goals. republicans favor a patient-centered approach that allows individuals to choose their own insurance, keep it if they like it, and never have to get permission from a washington bureaucrat to get the test or treatment that their doctors say they need. president obama wants congress to pass a sweeping new washington-run health care system that we believe would jeopardize the care most americans already have. such a system would likely lead to the collapse of private insurance and replace it with an enormous washington bureaucracy that would ration the health care for all americans. i discussed my concerns that washington-run health care would deminimum tpheurb access to quality care leading to denials, shortages and long delays for treatment and would give power to washington to dictate which medications and procedures americans could get and when they could get


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