WASHINGTON - April 28, 2010 - Senator Chuck Grassley today continued to peel back the layers of taxpayer obligations behind last week's claim and fanfare about General Motors repaying its multi-billion dollar loan from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the $700 billion taxpayer-funded bailout.

Last week, Grassley asked the Treasury Secretary why the administration had allowed GM to use money from an escrow account at Treasury to repay this loan, allowing "an elaborate TARP money shuffle."

In a floor speech this afternoon, Grassley said the response he received today from the Treasury Department confirmed that taxpayers funded the loan repayment by way of cash that GM has because the federal government originally loaned that cash to GM, and then the federal government agreed to forgive some of GM's debt during bankruptcy in exchange for stock in the company, the value of which is uncertain.

"The bottom line is that the repayment was made on the dime of taxpayers across America, and it's misleading to say that GM repaid its TARP loans 'in full, with interest, ahead of schedule, because more customers are buying' GM cars," Grassley said.  "Taxpayers remain on the hook, thanks to the failed deal cut by the government to try to save GM from bankruptcy.  Now, GM has pulled an additional $6.6 billion out of the escrow account but has left unpaid a $2.5 billion, nine-percent loan to the union health benefit fund."

Here is the April 19, 2010, request from GM to the Treasury Department asking for the distribution to GM of the entire amount of the reserve funds. 

Grassley said the American people deserve straightforward information about what's happening with TARP and the tax dollars being used by the Treasury Department to manage what the government has taken over from the private sector.  "The situation hasn't been described in a candid way, and that's added insult to injury after more than a year of bailouts and record-level deficit spending."

Grassley has conducted oversight of the Treasury Department's management of TARP and gone to bat for the Special Inspector General for TARP when the administration has put up barriers to the Inspector General determining where the money has gone.  The Iowa senator has criticized the lack of transparency with how TARP funds have been used and, last fall, he cosponsored legislation to end the program.

The Special Inspector General for TARP was created at the urging of Grassley and Senator Max Baucus of Montana, and when the Treasury Department changed the focus of the program less than a month after it began, Grassley worked with Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri to retool the Inspector General's authority and empower the office to adequately scrutinize TARP spending and management.

Here is the text of Grassley's remarks today.

Floor Statement of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

GM and TARP

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mr. President.  Last Thursday, I wrote Secretary Geithner asking why the Treasury Department allowed General Motors to use TARP money from a Treasury escrow account to repay its multi-billion dollar TARP taxpayer loan.  This afternoon, I received a response from Treasury.  I'd like to say a few words about the reply and the questions that remain unanswered.  Last week, Treasury and GM announced with press releases and nationwide TV commercials that GM had repaid its TARP loans "in full, with interest, ahead of schedule, because more customers are buying [GM vehicles]."

However, the hype does not match the reality.  Taxpayers have not been repaid in full?far from it.  Many billions of TARP dollars remain invested by Treasury in GM, and much of it will never be repaid.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that taxpayers will lose around $30 billion on GM.  In addition, the payment that occurred last week did not come from revenue GM earned by selling cars, despite what was claimed.  Instead, Treasury allowed GM to use funds in a separate escrow account to pay its TARP debt.  The Treasury Department's response to me today makes a point of saying that GM "owns" the money in the escrow account, as if that somehow justifies all the hoopla about GM's so-called "repayment."

Well, let's look at how GM came to "own" those escrow funds in the first place.  The escrow funds were part of the TARP money Treasury paid for GM stock coming out of the bankruptcy.  The money was supposed to be used by GM for expenses, as Treasury concedes.  Treasury had the power to approve or disapprove GM's use of the money to repay the TARP taxpayer loan.  Treasury approved, and GM pretended it was paying the loan back from revenue because business had improved.  Business may have improved, but that's not how they paid the loan.  Taking TARP money out of one account to pay back TARP loans in another account is not at all the same as paying off a loan with earnings, as GM's TV commercials imply they have done.  That is why I called it "an elaborate TARP money shuffle" and nothing in Treasury's reply today changes that.

The public would know nothing about the TARP escrow money being the source of the supposed repayment from simply watching GM's TV commercials or reading Treasury's press release.  Treasury's letter today says all these details are public knowledge and nothing new.  Well, that may be technically correct, but it wasn't clearly communicated that way to the average citizen.  Most Americans don't pore through SEC filings and Special Inspector General's reports.

The GM commercial also did not mention that GM could have used the TARP escrow funds to repay a $2.5 billion, nine-percent loan it received from its union health plan as part of the bankruptcy process.  The union loan runs until 2017.  The TARP loan was at seven percent and ran until 2015.  What sort of money manager would advise you to pay off a lower interest loan before a higher interest loan?  GM and Treasury have still not explained that, and I have asked the TARP watchdog, Special Inspector Neil Barofsky, to get to the bottom of it.  And to make matters worse, Treasury has admitted that it let GM take an additional $6.6 billion of TARP dollars out of the escrow fund last week with no strings attached.  That money, too, could have been used to repay the high interest union loan.

There are reports that GM also applied to the Department of Energy for a $10 billion, five-percent loan to retool its plants to meet fuel economy standards.  GM seems to be using government money to pay back government money, and then asking for more government money at a lower interest rate.  It sounds like a plan to refinance GM's government debt with more taxpayer money--not pay it back.

GM had to ask permission from Treasury to use the taxpayers' stock investment to pay off the taxpayers' loan. Treasury's response to my letter says that "Treasury retained approval rights over GMs use of funds from the escrow account in order to protect the taxpayer."  Well, why didn't they protect the taxpayer then?  Why would Treasury allow GM to use its equity investment to pay off the loan when it means giving up the legal right to a seven percent rate of return for the taxpayers in exchange for essentially nothing?  Since the taxpayer has an equity stake in the company, it's true that future growth of GM could theoretically make taxpayers whole, but taxpayers already had that equity interest before this latest transaction and didn't get any more equity as a result of the transaction.

Another key question is why would GM orchestrate a major media campaign to make the public think this all represents some big accomplishment by GM when the truth is that the taxpayers are still on the hook for billions that we may never recover?  Using the taxpayers' stock investment in GM to reduce its debt to the taxpayers is not the same as repaying that debt from money actually earned by selling cars.  Treasury's reply today does not explain why it approved this transaction.  Maybe it's a step in the right direction, maybe not.  But, instead of misleading the American people, we should be clear and up front about what happened here.

Highlights need to focus on visa security and protecting American workers

WASHINGTON - During an oversight hearing of the Department of Homeland Security, Chuck Grassley this week told Secretary Janet Napolitano that during his town hall meetings in March and April, Iowans were upset that federal immigration laws weren't being enforced.

Grassley also brought to Napolitano's attention legislation that he has introduced that would treat visa revocations similar to visa denials, because the right of that person to be in the United States is no longer valid.  Already, if an individual is denied a visa by the consular officer, there's no judicial review of that decision.  The Grassley bill would apply the same standard for individuals on U.S. soil who should not have been granted a visa, limiting their rights to judicial review of such a decision.

"The Christmas Day bomber highlighted the need to review U.S. visa policies, especially how agencies handle visa revocations when alarming information is provided to authorities," Grassley said.  "The Secretary has the authority to revoke a visa to any individual who is a threat to the country, however if a foreign national is already on U.S. soil, there's concern about that person accessing the U.S. court system and challenging the revocation."

During his questioning of Napolitano, Grassley also continued to highlight abuses within the H-1B and L Visa programs.  He pointed out that some of the problems previously highlighted by congressional oversight of the H-1B Visa program have led applicants to use the L Visa program.  The L Visa program has no wage protections, no annual numerical limits, fewer obligations on employers, and fewer protections for American workers.

Grassley is the author of H-1B and L Visa reform legislation which would increase enforcement, modify wage requirements, and ensure protection for visa holders and American workers.  The bill would not eliminate the program or change the numerical cap of visas available to petitioning employers.

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Davenport, IA, April 28th, 2010: Garlic Mustard is an invasive, noxious plant that threatens our native woodlands, natural areas and wildlife habitat. Help us control it in our community by participating in the Challenge between the Quad Cities and Johnson County.

    All volunteers are invited to a hot dog roast at Black Hawk State Park after the event.

    Date: Saturday, May 8th, 2010

    Time: 9:00am-Noon

    Location: Sunderbruch Park, 4675 Telegraph Rd. Davenport, IA

 

WASHINGTON - April 28, 2010 - Senator  Chuck Grassley is working to make sure changes made to the federal False Claims Act are recognized and incorporated by the 14 states that passed state False Claims Act in response to a federal incentive aimed at reducing Medicaid fraud.

In a letter sent today, Grassley asked the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to review existing state False Claims Acts for compliance with recent changes to the federal False Claims Act and to issue appropriate guidance for any state interested in the federal incentive, which allows states to increase their shares of Medicaid recoveries by 10 percent by allowing whistleblower lawsuits.  In addition to the 14 states which have qualified for this incentive, six states applied for it but did not meet the requirements.

"Updated information will help states fine tune existing state laws and state-level proposals, in order to be eligible for the federal incentive and beef up fraud-fighting efforts," Grassley said.  "This kind of effort at the state and federal level is more important than ever as Medicaid programs are expanded and face new burdens and growing fiscal challenges.  Every dollar lost to fraud is one less dollar for those who depend on the program and harms the sustainability of the Medicaid program."

The federal incentive for states to adopt whistleblower provisions as part of state laws on false claims was established by legislation Grassley got passed as part of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.  Additionally, in 1986, Grassley was the principal Senate sponsor of whistleblower amendments that updated the federal False Claims Act.  To date, those provisions have helped to recover $22 billion for the federal Treasury that otherwise would be lost to fraud.

Grassley said updated guidance is needed because of changes made to the federal False Claims Act during the last year.  In May 2009, the President signed the Fraud Enforcement Recovery Act, sponsored by Grassley and Senators Patrick Leahy and Ted Kaufman, which made major changes to strengthen the federal False Claims Act by removing liability loopholes and addressing statutory confusion.  Additional related, though less extensive changes, were made as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act enacted in March 2010, based upon legislation originally sponsored by Grassley and Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy.

"The federal False Claims Act has become the federal government's most effective tool against health care fraud, and a major factor in its success is the way that it empowers whistleblowers who know about wrongdoing.  They are the watchdogs that taxpayers and beneficiaries need working on their behalf, and the more states that recognize the value of whistleblowers in fighting fraud, the better," Grassley said.

Grassley is Ranking Member of the Finance Committee, with jurisdiction over Medicaid and Medicare, and a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, with jurisdiction over the False Claims Act.

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WASHINGTON - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - Senator Chuck Grassley today testified before a House Subcommittee hearing chaired by Representative Rosa DeLauro regarding drug safety and the work of the Food and Drug Administration.

Grassley has been conducting active oversight of the FDA since 2004, when a dissenting opinion from an FDA scientist about suicide risks for teenagers with anti-depressants was suppressed by the agency.  Grassley has called the FDA's relationship with the drug industry "too cozy" and sought greater independence and transparency from the agency.

Grassley described the need for a legislative reform, which he has twice introduced, to empower the office that monitors post-market drug safety at the FDA.  "There's a lack of equality between the FDA office that decides whether to approve a drug, or not, and the FDA office that monitors a drug's safety once a drug is on the market and being sold to patients, when much more information is available than can ever be achieved from pre-market samples."  Grassley says the result is that the FDA physicians and scientists committed to post-market monitoring of drugs have sometimes been suppressed and even ignored.

Here is the full text of the prepared testimony Grassley gave this morning.

Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley

U.S. House Committee on Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Avandia and Drug Safety

Chairwoman DeLauro, Ranking Member Kingston, and distinguished colleagues, thank you for inviting me to speak today at this hearing on drug safety.

Far too often, we read press reports about partisan warfare and a "do nothing" Congress.

So I am glad to see both the Senate and the House, Democrats and Republicans coming together to work to protect the American supply of pharmaceuticals.

As the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance, I have made it my job to look into various aspects of the health care industry.

I do this to protect the public's health and to guard their pocket book.

As part of this duty, I have taken a keen interest in the Food and Drug Administration and the pharmaceutical and device industries.

Back in May of 2007, Senator Baucus and I opened up an inquiry into Avandia, a drug sold by GlaxoSmithKline to control glucose levels in diabetics.

We started this inquiry because the New England Journal of Medicine published a study which found that Avandia may cause heart attacks.

Obviously, this was bad news, because one of the things diabetics are most at risk for is a heart attack.

The Finance Committee staff spent over two years combing through hundreds of thousands of pages of documents.  Let me tell you a little of what they found:

Back in 1999 when Avandia first came on the market, executives at GSK intimidated a physician at the University of North Carolina.

The physician was worried that Avandia might cause heart attacks.

To suppress his comments, top officials at GSK called his superiors and had him sign a form that he would no longer criticize the drug.

Senator Baucus and I released a report on this finding, and I would like to enter that document into the record at this time.

The 2007 study that first caught the Committee's attention was submitted to the New England Journal of Medicine by Dr. Steve Nissen, a professor and cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

However, GSK got a copy of the manuscript before it was published.  One of the experts who was peer-reviewing the study for the New England Journal of Medicine leaked it to GSK.

This allowed GSK to launch a PR campaign to undermine legitimate concerns that Avandia might cause heart attacks.

Then, last February, Senator Baucus and I published a Committee Staff Report on Avandia.  This report is about 15 pages long, and contains another 300 pages of attached internal documents, charts, and emails.

With this report, we wanted to let the people of America know what the company knew, and when they knew it.

I would now like to tell you some of what we found:

Shortly after GSK got a copy of Dr. Nissen's study, they had their own statistician dissect it.

GSK's statistician found the study to be scientifically sound.

However, GSK immediately drafted talking points to undermine Dr. Nissen's study.

At times, these talking points run counter to legitimate concerns of Avandia's safety that are raised in emails by GSK's own scientists.

In an internal email, GSK's head of research discussed "take home messages" of the research on Avandia.  If you look through the report that the Finance Committee released, you'll find this email on page 163.

In that email, GSK's head of research pointed out that Avandia has an increased risk of cardiovascular death.

Let me emphasize this?cardiovascular death.  Not heart attacks.  Not heart failure.  Death.

Well, the American public never knew about this risk until the Committee released the Avandia report.  And you still can't find any mention of "cardiovascular death" in the warning section of Avandia's label.

There are other findings in this report, but I would also like to discuss some internal FDA documents that we came across during our inquiry.

When concerns were first raised about the safety of Avandia, the FDA responded by requiring GSK to do a safety study.

Well, some drug safety experts inside FDA looked at that study that GSK was doing with patients and wrote that it was "unethical."

Here's the troubling thing about the study: the patients that enrolled in that safety study never learned that FDA's own safety experts thought that the trial was unethical.

At least, they didn't know this until the Finance Committee made that internal FDA document public in February.

This is not the first time questions have been raised about whether or not a study sanctioned by the FDA was ethical.

In 2006, I inquired about FDA's decision to allow a study on a blood substitute, PolyHeme, to proceed without adequate prior informed consent from the potential study participants.

I raised questions about FDA's decision, especially in light of the fact that another office within HHS, the Office for Human Research Protections, disagreed with the FDA.

In particular, I was concerned that during this study, when subjects arrived at the hospital after being treated with the blood substitute and real blood became available, the real blood was withheld from the patients as part of the study protocol.

To end, I would like to highlight what I feel we can all learn from the FDA's handling of Avandia. Because I think that we all want to move forward and make this agency better.

The Avandia case is another example of why I twice introduced legislation to establish an independent office of drug safety at the FDA.

The Center for Postmarket Drug Evaluation and Research would tackle the lack of equality between the Office of New Drugs (OND), which decides whether to approve a drug, and the Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology (OSE).

OSE is the office that monitors a drug's safety once it's on the market and being sold to patients.

The imbalance between OND and OSE was apparent in the Vioxx controversy about six years ago, and we can see it today in the incidents involving Avandia.

Individuals in the office responsible for post-market surveillance should be allowed to provide an independent opinion based on the best available evidence.

FDA employees dedicated to post-market surveillance should be able to express their opinions in writing and independently without fear of retaliation, reprimand, or reprisal.

Instead, the FDA physicians and scientists committed to post-market monitoring of drugs have sometimes been suppressed.  In the case of Avandia, it appears that they have been ignored.

Before I conclude my remarks, I would like to call to your attention another matter related to drug safety.

As you may have seen in press reports over the last two years, FDA has been taking action against some unapproved drugs.

The problem is?FDA does not have a complete and accurate list of all of the products sold on the US market, including unapproved drugs, so the agency can't take appropriate enforcement actions.

I hope that we can work together to ensure that FDA has the resources and tools to ensure that the drugs in our medicine cabinets are safe and effective and approved for use by the FDA.

This concludes my testimony, and I once again thank you for this invitation.

I look forward to working with you as you continue your oversight of our country's pharmaceuticals which remain vital to public health. I appreciate your leadership in this area.

Residents invited to attend meeting and share their concerns

DES MOINES- Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) announced today that his aide, Alison Hart, will host a "listening post" for local residents in Scott County, May 13, 2010. Iowans are invited to come and learn about how Harkin's new Chairmanship of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will benefit the state. 

Harkin staff members will hold the listening posts at area community colleges, private colleges and universities and community school districts to supplement the regular office hours at Harkin's five regional offices in Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Des Moines, Dubuque, and Sioux City.  These meetings ensure all Iowans have easy access to constituent services and information from the Harkin office.

"In order to better serve Iowa in the Senate, my office must hear firsthand from Iowans about how current laws impact them and their families," said Harkin. "This mobile office tour expands the reach of my state offices to connect us with residents and bringing information and assistance to the people of Iowa."

Each meeting will focus on the priorities for the Committee in the coming months, including efforts to strengthen K-12 education policy as well as higher education.  Last month, Harkin traveled across Iowa with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to hear from local education leaders, parents, students, business and community leaders on their ideas for a revised Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). 

Scott County Tour Details - May 13, 2010

7:30 am       
JB Young Intermediate School
1709 Harrison Street
3rd Floor Conference Room
Davenport, IA

9:00 am       
St. Ambrose
518 West Locust Street
Ambrose Room
Davenport, IA

10:30 am       
Scott Community College
500 Belmond Road
Student Life Center
Davenport, IA

Call for Christian bands of all types: Booking the 2010 concert season; register your group with New Anthem at 563-359-7617 or by email: NewAnthem@aol.com
Website: http://www.newanthem.com

You are invited to: "Put a Smile on a Child"

Tuesday, May 25, 2010, 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Augustana College PepsiCo Center
1025 30th Street, Rock Island

Fun children's activities and • Free dinner!

Community agencies with useful information!

Bring your youth group, school group, neighborhood, friends and family.
All activities and food are free!

For more information call:
Churches United, 309/786-6494

Washington, DC - Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) released the following statement today after attending a Congressional Committee hearing examining the safety and public sale of FEMA trailers. In 2008, after historic flooding in Iowa, it was discovered that more than 100 FEMA-provided trailers in Iowa were infected with mold. It was also reported the trailers contained high levels of formaldehyde.

In November of 2007, a federal court order suspended all sales of FEMA trailers until January 1, 2010. When the court order expired, FEMA sold over 100,000 trailers with warning labels indicating they were "not to be used for housing".

"With such a dismal record of providing unsafe housing, I am concerned about FEMA's sale of these units and how they will be used." Braley said. "I am not sure that the government should be selling trailers to the public that they have already been determined to pose risks to human health. It is important that we continue to examine this issue that has impacted hurricane victims in the Gulf Coast, as well as flooding victims in Iowa and other parts of the Midwest."

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April 28, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) spoke on the Senate floor today before the third scheduled procedural vote to bring financial reform legislation up for consideration.  The previous two attempts Monday and Tuesday failed due to Republican obstructionism.  Harkin's full remarks follow. 

"Mr. President, yesterday in the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, we learned more about the reckless actions of traders and executives at Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs was hardly the only bad actor in bringing our financial system to the brink of collapse in 2008.  Traders and executives at many other financial institutions got fabulously wealthy by gaming the unregulated casinos on Wall Street.  They walked away with fortunes, even as millions of Americans lost their jobs, their savings, and/or their homes. 

"Yet, as we witnessed in yesterday's hearing, Wall Street remains arrogant and unrepentant.  And it has the gall to believe that it should remain free to continue business as usual.  To that end, it has mobilized a legion of lobbyists - an estimated 1,500 of them . . . 15 lobbyists for every Senator - to try to kill or water down financial reform legislation. 

"It is deeply unfortunate that every one of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have joined with Wall Street in obstructing this legislation - every one of them is not just filibustering the bill, but even preventing it from coming to the floor for debate. 

"I say to my Republican colleagues:  Senator Dodd and Senator Lincoln have bent over backward to consult with Republicans and invite bipartisan cooperation.  Their good-faith efforts have produced solid, common-sense legislation.  Can it be improved?  Of course.  But we can only amend and improve this legislation if the Republican filibuster ends and the bill is brought to the floor.

"Mr. President, it is a bitter irony that, even as we spent a fortune in taxpayer dollars to rescue the global financial system, the self-appointed masters of the universe on Wall Street rewarded themselves with billions in bonuses and geared up to fight efforts by Congress to prevent a replay of the 2008 meltdown.

"Wall Street is all too used to living a different life - and playing by different rules - from Main Street.  And nowhere is this disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street more stark than in the area of compensation.  Over the last decades, compensation in the financial sector has skyrocketed, with some executives walking away with annual compensation of hundreds of millions of dollars, even as the inflation-adjusted incomes of ordinary working Americans have failed to rise. 

"Mr. President, I am dwelling on this matter of compensation because it points to a larger issue.  In my view, a big reason for the financial collapse of 2008 is that things got seriously out of balance and out of whack.  As Glass-Steagall was repealed, as special interests attacked the very idea of government regulation, and as the SEC and other watchdog agencies turned into permissive poodles, bad actors on Wall Street stepped into the void. 

"Pursuing fabulous riches, they drove our economy off a cliff.  And it is ordinary Americans, the ones who work hard and play by the rules, who have paid such a terrible price for Wall Street's recklessness.

"And that is exactly why we need financial reform legislation.  As others have noted, financial crises should not be things that happen every five to seven, much like periodic floods.  Just as we can build dikes to prevent floods, we can take common-sense steps to prevent future financial meltdowns.

"This legislation will protect consumers in their everyday transactions involving everything from mortgages to credit cards to payday loans.  It will safeguard families whose life savings and pensions can be devastated when a financial system collapses.  And it will guard against future massive meltdowns in the financial system that almost always cause collateral damage to millions of innocent bystanders and to the broader economy.

"By all means, strong financial reform must include regulation of the derivatives market.  I am very pleased that the basis for this regulation is the provision passed out of the Agriculture Committee under the leadership of Chairman Lincoln.

"Derivatives contracts have been at the heart of Wall Street's financial manipulation. From December 2000 to June 2008, the height of Wall Street's boom, the face-value of over-the-counter derivatives grew from $95 billion to $683 trillion.

"Now, I have no objection to derivatives as financial instruments. Many manufacturing companies use these financial instruments legitimately to hedge their risks.  But, we also know that many parts of this market amount to nothing more than pure-and-simple gambling. So, despite derivatives' usefulness in many circumstances, we also know that the current structure of the market is in dire need of fundamental reform.

"The derivatives legislation reported out of the Agriculture Committee, last week, is now a component of the larger reform bill that we hope will soon be before the Senate. This proposal would bring these transactions into the light of day by requiring that all transactions be reported to regulators in real-time. It would also bring the vast majorities of these contracts into clearinghouses and exchanges. These market mechanisms help to reduce the concentration of risk in the system and bolster public transparency.  This legislation also gets to the heart of the 'too big to fail' problem by prohibiting swaps entities from also being commercial banks. Commercial banks that are backed by the government should not be able to use that government backing to support their high-stakes gambling.  That only magnifies the level of risk in the banking system. It is unfair to taxpayers, and also to bank customers and community banks. 

"Mr. President, in addition to regulating derivatives, we also need a strong, truly independent financial consumer protection agency to guard against rip-offs and abuses in mortgages, credit cards, payday loans, and other financial products.

"We also need to slam the door on any future taxpayer bailouts of so-called 'too big to fail' financial institutions.  No more AIGs or Citigroups.  When companies make huge bets and lose, we need an orderly process for liquidating those companies.  Period.

"To further improve the bill, I am a cosponsor of legislation offered by Senator Cantwell that would re-create the Great Depression-era regulation that prohibited the mixing of commercial banks, investment banks, and insurance companies. I am also a cosponsor of the SAFE Banking Act offered by Senators Brown and Kaufman that would limit the size of the largest institutions.

"In addition, I am supportive of legislation by Senators Merkley and Levin that blocks institutions that are insured by the FDIC from proprietary trading with their own funds.  We can't have high-risk gambling with the government standing as the backstop if there are large losses.  

"Mr. President, America has been through financial collapses and deep economic downturns before. In charting the way forward, we can learn important lessons from the financial crash of 1929 that led to the Great Depression.  FDR answered that crisis by implementing tough new regulations to stabilize the financial system, to rein in risk-taking and recklessness on Wall Street, and to make the economy work for ordinary Americans.  This led to decades of shared economic prosperity unprecedented in our nation's history. 

"That needs to be our model as we shape today's financial reform legislation.  Our aim should be a Wall Street that serves the interests of Main Street.  Our aim should be a financial system that makes possible a new era of economic stability and shared prosperity."

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