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Ranking Member Waters' Opening Statement at Today's Full Committee Markup

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Washington, DC, March 13, 2014 | comments
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, today gave the following opening statement at today’s full committee markup of five bills intended to promote economic growth and the majority’s Budget Views and Estimates for fiscal year 2015.

Her remarks are below. 

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 As prepared for delivery:

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Promoting economic growth and reducing income inequality are critically important to ensure opportunity for every American. Today we are considering five pieces of legislation intended to promote job growth, but we will also consider the majority’s Budget Views and Estimates for fiscal year 2015, which does nothing to achieve those important goals. In fact, it takes our progress in the wrong direction.

Mr. Chairman, forty-seven million Americans today live in poverty. While that number is simply too high, it is important not to confuse the existence of poverty with the notion that we have not made large strides over the past 50 years to alleviate it. The social safety net has proven to be a crucial tool in lowering poverty rates for many years.

According to studies, without the social safety net, the poverty rate in 2011 would have been nearly twice as high – 29 percent compared to 16.1 percent. Pretending that simply cutting these programs would somehow magically lift people out of poverty is not historical, sensible or fair. 

Of course, our willingness to make public investments happens in the context of the overall budget and budget deficit. Since President Obama has taken office, the budget deficit has fallen rapidly and steadily – from an inherited $1.4 trillion in 2009 to a projected $514 billion in fiscal year 2014 – which is roughly 3 percent of GDP and the average size of the deficit over the past 40 years.

In fiscal year 2015, the Congressional Budget office projects the deficit will drop to $478 billion – 2.6 percent of GDP. President Obama’s new budget proposal would go even further –projected to reduce the deficit to 1.6 percent of GDP by the year 2024.

The deficit is not an excuse for policymakers to abandon programs that for decades have successfully reduced poverty and expanded opportunities for the middle class. This is particularly the case as poverty rates for African-Americans, Latinos and those in rural communities remain disproportionately and cripplingly high.

Unfortunately, the majority’s budget views only exacerbate this problem – by continuing harmful policies that have stymied our recovery over the past several months. The Republican shutdown, threats of defaulting on our debts and the impact of the harmful sequester has hurt economic growth, slowed job creation, and only widened the gap between rich and poor.

We believe that Congress must do more to support initiatives that create jobs. This includes the reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) and the Export-Import Bank, both of which are supported by the business community and are critical to increase employment and investment in our economy.

Democratic members of the Committee are committed to supporting a strong and stable financial system focused on protecting consumers and safeguarding the savings of working Americans. Doing so requires full funding for our nation’s regulators. The Securities and Exchange Commission needs resources to ensure that the financial services industry adheres to the rules of the road. We must also preserve the independence of the highly successful Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – to ensure it can continue to return billions of dollars back to millions of harmed consumers.

Like the business community, we believe that a well-equipped International Monetary Fund is very much in our national interest, and we support U.S. approval of the IMF quota deal.

We also support affordable housing and initiatives to end poverty. This means full funding for Department of Housing and Urban Development programs that provide public housing, work to end homelessness and preserve access to affordable rental housing targeted to low-income families.

And we believe it means focusing on sensible housing finance reform, not the radical remake of our housing finance system, as is called for by the PATH Act.

Mr. Chairman, it is our view that this committee should further budget policies that continue economic growth, reduce economic inequality and expand opportunity for every American – not erase the gains we have already made.

Regarding the five bills before us today that are intended to provided regulatory relief, I believe that we will likely see several amendments offered that represent one of the fundamentals of our democracy—compromise. 

I understand that Ms. Beatty, Mr. Meeks and Mr. Stivers have all constructively worked on several amendments to improve H.R. 3584, a bill to allow privately insured credit unions access to Federal Home Loan Banks.

Mr. Hinojosa, Mr. Lynch and Mr. Barr have also collaborated to improve H.R. 2672, a bill that offers relief to Americans living in rural communities. 

Likewise, Mr. Delaney and Mr. Fincher made important changes to balance crucial investor protections with the concerns of small businesses in their bill, H.R. 3623.

And finally, Ms. Sewell and Mr. Hurt came together on H.R. 4164 to strike an appropriate compromise that will ultimately result in a better outcome for the future of computer-friendly reporting language.

I am also hopeful that Republicans will look favorably upon Ms. Maloney’s amendment to H.R. 4167, which appropriately tailors an exemption for CLO debt securities while preserving the main tenants of the Volcker Rule.

But, Mr. Chairman, as some of these items provide narrow regulatory relief to smaller institutions, I reiterate my disappointment that this committee has been unable to put forth a larger regulatory relief package. Taking these bills up in a piecemeal manner makes it more difficult to address the concerns of our businesses, banks and credit unions in a comprehensive manner. 

I yield back.

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