JANUARY 13, 2012 ~ VOLUME IX, NUMBER I
As the new year begins, so, too, does the second session of the 112th Congress. Eventually. In fact, the session will not begin until January 17-- and the House is only scheduled to be in session for a grand total of six days this month.
It's a shame. The two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance benefits, and the Medicare "doc fix" finally agreed to by the new House majority expires at the end of February. But the majority has yet to call a meeting of the Conference Committee they were once so aggressive in pursuing. If the last year has proven anything, it's shown that the majority likes to take these things to the very brink of the deadline, creating a crisis which needlessly harms the country (and Congress itself). The clock is ticking on this urgent priority, and it's past time for Conference Committee Chairman Dave Camp to schedule the committee's first meeting.
The improvement in jobs numbers last month-- 200,000 new jobs were added in December, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics-- is modest good news for the economy, but we have a very long way to go before enough jobs are created to bring us back to pre-recession employment levels. Especially challenging is the category of worker who is under-employed or who has dropped out of the job market entirely. Americans have been waiting for more than a year for the House majority to put forward a plan to create jobs but so far they have done little to address this most vital issue for the American public. Those of us in the minority are ready to work to help put people back to work and I urge those in the majority to join us.
The new year brings some other good news: American troops have left Iraq and we have ended our involvement there. President Obama deserves much credit for keeping his promise to the American people to withdraw from the Iraq conflict and have our troops home by the holidays. Those of us in the House and the Senate must continue to honor our commitment to our veterans and their families, helping to ensure a future in which they can fulfill their hopes and dreams for themselves and their children.
Finally, on a personal level, I want to note the retirement of Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts. Barney is an American original: a brilliant Congressman and a trailblazer for equal rights who ably steered the House Financial Services Committee, on which I serve, through the worst economic downturn in our lifetimes. But for three decades, Barney has enlightened and enlivened our national debate on critical policy issues as few others have. Barney's enthusiasm, energy, humor and devotion to the work of governance have been an inspiration to me, and I know I won't be alone in missing him in the House.
CAROLYN B. MALONEY
Member of Congress
P.S. Please do not reply to this email address. If you'd lik to contact me, use the "email me" function on my Congressional website.
PRESIDENT MAKES RECESS APPOINTMENTS to CFPB, NLRB, PCLOB
President Obama has decided to avail himself of the option of recess appointments to bodies that need leadership.
The President made the right call by appointing Richard Cordray, former Attorney General of Ohio, as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. With Mr. Cordray at the helm, the CFPB can fully begin making financial transactions fairer, more honest, and more transparent for the American consumer -- and helping prevent the kind of financial crisis that caused the Great Recession. Only in the most polarized political environment could those goals be considered controversial.
The CFPB has been up and running for months, but without a director, it hasn’t been able to exercise the full range of authority granted to it under the Dodd-Frank law. I wish Mr. Cordray, an eminently well-qualified nominee, the very best in his new position.
The President also made recess appointments of Richard Griffin, Sharon Block and Terence Flynn to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), taking decisive action to protect the rights of working Americans. In so doing, he is enabling this important institution to function by ensuring that its five-member Board can muster a quorum and be fully operational in carrying out its critical mission, which includes supervising union elections, serving as an impartial arbiter of disputes between private-sector workers and employers, and issuing new regulations.
Republican congressional leadership has reached a new extreme: they have clearly shown that they intend to use the Senate confirmation process, not merely to mount roadblocks against presidential nominees, but to prevent entire government agencies from functioning whatsoever. For government agencies like the NLRB, which is charged with ensuring fairness and justice for workers and employers, or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose mission is to protect consumers, investors and homeowners, recess appointments are proving the only recourse in ensuring that they are able to carry out their legally mandated duties. The American people deserve no less.
President Obama also made three new nominations to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), which I had fought to create as part of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations in 2004. The PCLOB was reconstituted as an independent body within the Executive Branch in 2007. David Medine, Patricia M. Wald and Rachel L. Brand join the previously-named James Dempsey and Elizabeth Collins Cook as nominees who will provide an independent voice on these vital issues upon confirmation by the Senate.
With these appointments, at long last, the PCLOB has a full complement of five nominees, and upon Senate confirmation they can proceed to function as it was intended by the 9/11 Commission: to help protect the constitutional civil liberties and privacy rights of our citizens as affected by the battle against terrorism and the growth of technology. If the PCLOB had been constituted sooner, many vital national security issues could have benefited from its oversight and input. Whether it’s internet security, airport screening, or warrantless tracking, oversight is needed from an independent body that has no interest or incentive to minimize civil liberties infringement.
JP MORGAN CHASE MAKES THE RIGHT CHOICE
JP Morgan Chase’s decision to adopt a standardized checking account disclosure form developed by the Pew Charitable Trust deserves praise.
It is good news for both JP Morgan and for consumers. Everyone claims they support transparency in concept, but this standardized, consumer-friendly, plain-english form puts transparency into actual practice, making prices and risks clear to the average consumer. By adopting the format, Chase is accelerating both the concept and execution of transparency in consumer financial products, and they should be congratulated. The Pew form, viewable here, has been adopted by many financial institutions but JP MorganChase is the largest to date.
“MICRO-BIZ” BILL TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES GROW AND CREATE JOBS
America's small businesses are the strength of our nation's economy. They account for 39 percent of the country's gross national product, create two out of every three new jobs, and produce two and one-half times as many innovations per employee as do large firms. Many of America's 20 million small businesses are struggling to stay afloat due to the tightening of the financial markets, which makes it much more difficult to obtain loans and lines of credit to expand, make payroll, and deal with unforeseen expenses.
In particular, small businesses in under-served areas have for generations been unable to access affordable credit. The financial crisis of 2008 only served to exacerbate the difficulties entrepreneurs have experienced in accessing capital to create jobs and improve economic outcomes for both the small business and the community.
That's why I've introduced a new bill, the "Investing in America’s Small Businesses Act," to increase ability of micro-loans to help entrepreneurs start or expand businesses and create jobs. The bill would give federal grants to Community Development Financial Institutions to establish loan-loss reserves, which would leverage private investment to provide small businesses with loans of up to $25,000.
This bill will expand a vital source of seed money for entrepreneurs who don’t have access to bank loans. The billion-dollar corporation that began in a dorm room or a garage is no urban myth, as the employees of Facebook and Hewlett-Packard can tell you, but the Great Recession has made it harder than ever for entrepreneurs to access credit. It's my hope that this ‘micro biz” bill will be a bridge not only to vital financing for entrepreneurs, but also to a brighter economic future for our country.
The bill will provide $25 million in much-needed capital to Community Development Financial Institutions to create loan-loss reserves for small business lending. With economic opportunity, entrepreneurs—often minorities and women—can build assets, better provide for their families, create employment, and strengthen the tax base of their communities. This Act is essential to helping CDFIs create new financial products and services that are appropriate and accessible for millions of American small businesses that do not have access to the financial mainstream.