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Editor/Founder: Bill Smith, Ph.D. [aka: OzarkGuru & 2010 AFP National Blogger of the Year]
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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Friday, April 30, 2010

Today in Washington, D.C. - April 30, 2010 - More on Puerto Rico Statehood & Financial Regulation Bills

Yesterday, the House passed the Puerto Rico Democracy Act H.R. 2499 by a vote of 233-169. In a separate vote, an amendment that would have required English as the sole official language as a condition for Puerto Rican statehood was defeated 194-198. The vote by party was mixed.

Mauro E. Mujica, Chairman of the Board of U.S. English, Inc. issued the following statement after the vote: "All Americans who care about our national unity should be outraged by this vote. No state has ever come into the Union where its core organs of government operate in a foreign language and Puerto Rico must not be an exception. This bill constitutes an invitation by Congress to take a very large step on the road to statehood. But this invitation must not be issued without full clarity about the consequences of statehood for Puerto Rico and for the current 50 states. On behalf of our members and the millions of Puerto Ricans who oppose this flawed bill, I pledge that we will work tirelessly to fight this battle in the Senate."

Puerto Rico has language policies that are unlike any state in the Union’s history. English is taught as a foreign language in public schools, and the courts and legislature are conducted in Spanish, with English translations available only by special request. Congress has previously required language requirements as a condition for statehood when the language of potential states was in genuine doubt: Congress required French Louisiana to conduct its government functions in English, and required Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma to make English the language of public education.

The Senate resumed consideration of S. 3217, the Dodd financial regulation bill. No votes are scheduled for today. For two weeks, Democrats have attacked Republicans, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in particular, for pointing out that the financial regulation bill, offered by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT), doesn’t end “too big to fail” and actually allows for future taxpayer bailouts.

Before the bill came up for debate, Sen. McConnell warned, “This bill not only allows for taxpayer-funded bailouts of Wall Street banks; it institutionalizes them.” The next day, he explained, “If you need to know one thing about this bill, it’s that it would make it official government policy to bail out the biggest Wall Street banks. So if the administration is looking for bipartisan support on this Wall Street bill, they can start by eliminating this aspect of the bill — not because Republicans are asking for it, but because community bankers all across the country and American taxpayers are demanding it.”

Democrats rejected these criticisms on their face. In his weekly address that same week, President Obama declared that Sen. McConnell “made the cynical and deceptive assertion that reform would somehow enable future bailouts – when he knows that it would do just the opposite.” This week, Obama went to New York to proclaim, “[W]hat’s not legitimate is to suggest that somehow the legislation being proposed is going to encourage future taxpayer bailouts, as some have claimed. That makes for a good sound bite, but it’s not factually accurate. It is not true.”

Senate Democrats were no less emphatic. Sen. Dodd came to the floor many times to denounce the criticisms. At one point he affirmed, “[O]ur bill stops bailouts by literally eliminating any possibility for the government of the United States to bail these firms out.” And he later said, “They knew, at least those who’d read the bill, that those provisions had been written so tight that no one could possibly argue that too big to fail would ever be allowed again.”

But today, Democrats appear to have acknowledged that Sen. McConnell and Republicans were right all along in the very first amendment they’ve offered to the Dodd bill. The New York Times writes, “The first amendment proposed to the bill, by Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, was intended to tighten language in the bill regarding how the government would handle any future collapses of financial companies. . . . In a floor speech, Mrs. Boxer again rejected the Republican criticism, although her amendment suggested that there might have been some reason to question the possibility of future bailouts.” And The Washington Post writes, “The first proposed amendment, introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), would prohibit using any more taxpayer money to bail out troubled financial companies. This goal is so widely shared that members of both parties have been tripping over one another to assure the public that they are best at safeguarding taxpayers' wallets.”

Clearly, Republicans were right all along, as NPR’s Adam Davidson seemed to confirm last week. He wrote, “We at Planet Money did an informal survey of economists and regulatory experts on the left and the right. We couldn't find any who fully endorse the reforms backed by President Obama and Democrats in Congress. . . . Take, for example, "too big to fail" - the idea that if one of the largest banks in the country gets into trouble, the government will save it with taxpayer money. ‘A vote for reform is a vote to put a stop to taxpayer-funded bailouts,’ Obama said in his speech in New York on Thursday. I cannot find any experts - of any party - who are willing to agree with Obama on this one.”

An amendment to prevent taxpayers from being on the hook for bailouts that bill still allows for is a good start, but there are many more problems with the Dodd bill that need to be fixed. Maybe on the other issues, Democrats will save everyone some time and energy and listen to Republican concerns instead of spending weeks trying to score political points off of legitimate policy critiques.

Tags: Washington, D.C., US Senate, US Congress, Puerto Rico,  financial regulation, Chris Dodd, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 11:21 AM - Post Link

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