Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of Homebuyers and Consumers
“Thank you Madam Speaker. I thank the gentlewoman for yielding and salute her for her relentless championing of the rights of consumers in our country, as our Ranking Member on the Financial Services Committee. I come to the floor on this legislation because it's something that runs deep in terms of our commitment and our responsibility to the consumers in our country.
“It is very curious to me that this is called the Homeowners Assistance [Act] because it is exactly the opposite of that. And I say that with regret because I think that there could have been some good features of this bill – and there had been – that we all agreed on; that if there is legislation as there has been Dodd-Frank and their regulations that spring from it – as there must be – that we have adequate time for the regulations to be implemented, to listen to the private sector, to say, ‘What are the ramifications of these regulations?’ and, ‘Do you need more time?’
“We all subscribe that a certain amount of time, not the amount of time that is going to deter ever implementing the regulations, but a good faith attempt to come to terms. What is unfortunate about this legislation, though, is that in taking that goodwill and turning it into a bill, what the Republicans have decided to do is to take away the right of private action for a homeowner, for a consumer. They are trying to destroy homeowners’ right to be heard in court when they think they have been tricked or misled in any kind of a transaction. And this is so really important.
“It was in September of 2008 when we had a meeting in my office – then at the time – Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate, to talk about what was happening to the financial institutions in our country. There was a meltdown of such seriousness as was described by the Secretary of the Treasury that when I asked the Chairman of the Fed who was in the room, Mr. [Ben] Bernanke, did he agree with that characterization of the situation we were in, he said if we do not act immediately, we may not have an economy by Monday. This was Thursday night. And so, we went forward – largely with Democratic votes – to support the Republican President, President [George W.] Bush, whose Administration put forth legislation, and we worked together to make it something that we could pass on the Floor; overwhelmingly Democratic votes supporting the Republican President in order to protect our economy.
“What we couldn't do in that legislation or since, was include the ability for a homeowner to declare bankruptcy – not that we wanted them to and not that they hoped they ever needed to, but they had the leverage. They had the leverage in the negotiation with their lender to do so. Many of them were seriously abused by bundling and all kinds of other things that had happened, that it was no longer my home loan from my neighborhood banker or my community banker; these mortgages were sold and sold and sold, so nobody even knew who their lender was. But, we, the Congress refused to give them the right of bankruptcy. Here we are again, these years later, since September of 2008 to October of 2015 – seven years later – we have passed that bill that pulled back the financial institutions from their serious meltdown, helping Main Street, as well as our financial institutions necessary for our economy. We passed the TARP bill. We passed Dodd-Frank to make sure that the abuses that occurred that caused that meltdown in 2008 would not happen again because of what it did to our economy, to our working families, to our financial institutions in our country.
“And so, with Dodd-Frank, we had something that was really a breakthrough to protect the consumers. That Financial Consumer Protection Agency and something really important to protect average people, consumers. And so the regulations were released and the private sector said ‘We need more time.’ Take more time. The administrator of the agency said: ‘Okay, take more time.’ Then our Republican friends said: ‘Oh no, let’s bring it to the floor and turn it into a bill to take more time. But then to put this like a trojan horse, this bill comes in with this underbelly of taking away the right of private action for a consumer. How many people have we heard from one reason or another engage in a contract, a financial transaction where there were – not the devil was in the details, hell was in the details. Terrible for them and they had no right of private action. This just isn't right.
“So we may have our differences of opinion as to the amount of regulation or the timing of regulation, that's a legitimate debate for us to have and to listen to the private sector in our public-private discussions to make sure that the intent of Congress and the intent of protecting the American people is intact. And I don't paint everyone in the private sector with the same brush as I come out against those who say: ‘Let's take away that right for consumers to have their day in court.’
“So I ask my colleagues: think about the consumer, what it means to the consumer to have his or her day in court. We are not supposed to be constricting leverage for the consumer in our country. We're supposed to be expanding opportunity for them so that when they engage in a transaction, they are respected because they have leverage at the table. Don't diminish their leverage by passing this legislation. I'm so pleased that the President's staff has said this they would recommend a veto should this bill come to the President's desk. Remove all doubt in the consumer's mind. We're not here to deter them but to empower them.
“I thank the gentlelady, again, for her leadership, the members of the Committee who have been so protective of America's consumers. Because, you know what? The consumers are the life blood of our economy. We are a consumer economy, and until consumers have consumer confidence to invest, to spend, to buy a home, to inject demand into the economy, our economy will never turn around. We are a middle-class economy, we are a consumer economy. Let's strengthen that by voting ‘no’ on this bill and saying ‘yes’ to consumers. We want them to be as strong at the negotiating table as they can be. With that, I commend the gentlelady from California, Ranking Member [Maxine] Waters, and yield back the balance of my time.”