Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Westmoreland: Financial Services Committee Hearing in Newnan Uncovers Problems with ‘Mixed Messages’

The House Financial Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Financial Institutions held a hearing in Newnan, Georgia today to discuss the high rate of bank failures in Georgia and across the country and how the policies and practices of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and other federal regulators may have affected those failures. Congressman Westmoreland hosted the hearing and was joined by Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus (AL-06), Subcommittee Chairwoman Shelley Moore Capito (WV-02), and Congressman David Scott (GA-13). Testimony was offered by two panels. The first was comprised of federal regulators from the FDIC, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and the Federal Reserve. The second panel was comprised of bank owners and financial leaders from across the state of Georgia. More than 100 people attended the hearing.

“I would like to thank Congressman Bachus, Congresswoman Capito, and Congressman Scott for joining me today in Newnan to discuss this important matter,” stated Westmoreland. “I would also like to thank the witnesses who offered testimony as well as those who travelled to attend the hearing. This is an extremely important issue that is affecting communities across the country. After listening to both panels of witnesses, it seems to me that there are mixed messages between what regulators in Washington are saying and what regulators on the ground are actually doing. While the heads of these agencies are telling us their regulators on the ground are supposed to be using common sense, bankers in Georgia told us today that is simply not happening. And what I have to say to these Washington regulators is that you need to get out more. That might be what you think is going on in Washington, but that’s not what’s happening in our local communities. Instead, what we are seeing is that banks that are ‘too big to fail’ are given assistance to survive, while community banks are pushed to the side and have become ‘too small to save.’”

During the first panel, Congressman Westmoreland expressed his concern that many of these federal regulators have never worked in a bank or made a loan – making it hard for them to fully comprehend the best solutions to help some of these troubled banks. He also expressed his frustration with what appears to be inconsistent reviews by federal regulators.

“How does a bank get an A+ on their review by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency one year and then get an F 12 months later?” Westmoreland asked the OCC representative Gil Barker. “You have told us that you address problems at the earliest possible stage to prevent banks from becoming troubled or failing. But it’s hard for me to believe that a bank can go downhill so quickly – going from completely safe to utterly unsalvageable 12 short months later.. I think, instead, that regulators on the ground are either ignoring the warning signs or, because of their lack of industry experience, aren’t aware of these signs. Either way, it seems to me that federal regulators are not actually addressing problems at the earliest possible stage.”

During the second panel, bank owners expressed their frustration with overzealous regulators on the ground as well as the regulations they were enforcing. Both, they say, have led to less availability of credit and have negatively affected many local banks – forcing some to close their doors when they could have been saved. Congressman Westmoreland shared his frustration with the fact that the OCC, the FDIC, and other federal regulators could not see their solutions to assist troubled institutions – usually to have an out-of-town bank purchase the troubled bank – have not helped.

“Some of these purchasing banks don’t know the community,” stated Westmoreland. “What they know is that the quicker they flush out troubled assets – even those that are performing – they better off they are. So now we have communities that don’t have community banks. Generational wealth has been sucked out of communities and capital has dried up. Had some of these federal regulators thought to themselves, ‘I’ve been in Washington for 30 years and have never actually worked in a bank. I should be talking to these local leaders and bankers to determine what would be the best way to help them out.’ Instead, they ignored problems and enforced policies, like loss-share agreements and immediate write-down of loans, that only caused more trouble for community banks. Without these community banks – who know and understand and are invested in their community because it is their own – economic recovery has stalled and we see investment in smaller areas all but disappear.”

Since joining the House Financial Services Committee this January, Congressman Westmoreland has since become an active voice in the committee, standing up for community banks and working to end the failed policy of too big to fail, too small to save. For more information on legislation introduced by Congressman Westmoreland to study the policies and practices of the FDIC and their impact on bank failures visit http://westmoreland.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=252837. Videos of the hearing will be available on Congressman Westmoreland’s YouTube channel shortly at www.youtube.com/replynnwestmoreland.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Congressman Jack Kingston: Congress must do more to address the national debt

This week, the twelve members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction were appointed by their respective leaders. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) will serve as co-chair and be joined by Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Dave Camp (R-MI), Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), Fred Upton (R-MI), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) will also serve as co-chair and be joined by Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT), John Kerry (D-MA), John Kyl (R-AZ), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Pat Toomey (R-PA).

I voted against the Budget Control Act because I believe it does not go far enough to get our national debt under control. The announcement by Standard & Poor’s that it has downgraded our credit rating for the first time in history last week and the volatile markets this week confirmed that belief.

This joint committee should begin its work immediately and report a deficit reduction package before the November 23 deadline. I have also called for Congress to reconvene with real purpose to tackle our debt and send a clear signal to the markets and the rest of the world that we can rise to the challenge. Negotiations should be centered around the Cut, Cap and Balance Act as passed by the House.

Both the House and Senate should immediately take up a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution and send it to the states for ratification. In the meantime, we should take up any proposal to fundamentally change the way government operates.

As you know, I have put forth legislation to limit spending as a percentage of the economy, bringing total spending in line with revenues. My plan begins making cuts today, balances the budget and begins paying down the national debt in just five years.

America faces a tremendous challenge when it comes to reining in spending and getting our debt under control. We have faced big challenges before and I am confident we can come together as a country to do what is right so we can provide a brighter future for our children and grandchildren.

Another court rules against ObamaCare
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the individual mandate in the health care law passed last year is unconstitutional. The ruling confirmed a lower court’s decision on a case brought by the State of Georgia along with twenty-four states and the National Federation of Independent Business.

Chief Judge Joel Dubina wrote, "[t]he individual mandate exceeds Congress's enumerated commerce power and is unconstitutional. This economic mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority: the ability to compel Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them re-purchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives."

The ruling contradicts another appeals court ruling issued in Cincinnati earlier this year meaning the case is now almost certain to be heard by the Supreme Court. A federal appeals court in Richmond is expected to issue a ruling on a similar case within weeks and there are more than two dozen legal challenges in lower federal courts.

I remain committed to overturning ObamaCare. So far this year, I voted to repeal and replace it with reforms that bring down the cost of care without increasing the size of government. I voted separately to defund it and cosponsored a bill that was signed into law preventing the devastating 1099 requirement from being implemented.

In March I introduced legislation with Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) to repeal up to $105 billion in advance appropriations that were snuck into the bill. Read more.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Westmoreland Opposes Debt Ceiling Increase

After months of debate, tonight the House of Representatives passed S.365, the Budget Control Act of 2011, to raise the debt ceiling and enact some spending reforms. Specifically, it would reduce deficits by $917 billion over ten years by capping spending levels and in return raise the debt ceiling $900 billion. In addition, it requires a vote on a balanced budget amendment in both the House and the Senate after October 2, 2011 but before the end of the year. It then establishes a commission tasked with finding an additional $1.2 to $1.5 trillion in spending cuts by November 23, 2011. A second debt ceiling increase of $1.5 trillion would be permitted at the beginning of next year if the balanced budget amendment is sent to the states for ratification, or if the commission proposal includes cuts equal to or greater than $1.5 trillion and those cuts are passed into law. If neither happens, a $1.2 trillion debt limit increase would be attached to across the board spending cuts that would equal the difference between $1.2 trillion and the cuts enacted by the commission’s proposal. Congressman Westmoreland did not support the legislation.

“When these negotiations began in January, I made a promise that I would not vote for any legislation that didn’t include significant spending cuts and absolutely no tax increases. Unfortunately, the final plan did not include significant enough cuts and left open the possibility for tax increases through this bipartisan commission. In addition, it does not require a balanced budget amendment be sent to the states for ratification. Without that constitutional restraint placed on this Congress and future Congresses, we can never guarantee real spending reforms will happen.

“House Republicans also made a promise to the American people that we would bring back an open process here in Congress. Up until now, we have stuck with that promise. We’ve posted legislation on the internet and given the American people and Members of Congress 72 hours to review it. We’ve brought back open rules on appropriations bills, allowing Republican and Democrat members alike to offer amendments. But now, after this deal was crafted behind closed doors with only a few members of leadership at the table, we were given less than 12 hours to read and review this extremely important legislation. More time is needed to make an informed decision about legislation of this size and scope. Unfortunately, once again, Congress has waited until the last minute to act, pushing us up against this artificial August 2nd deadline and forcing a decision on a bill it seems no one actually likes.

“I and other Republicans in the House stuck by our leadership in the hopes we could keep Cut, Cap and Balance alive and negotiate a deal we could support. And while I know they worked hard to get the best deal possible, at the end of the day, it’s just not a deal I can support. I commend their efforts though. If you will recall, up until a few months ago, President Obama was still calling for a ‘clean’ debt ceiling increase and last night was still pushing for immediate tax increases on job creators. So we came a long way during these negotiations. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats and the White House stalled any attempt at real spending reform, resulting in this unpopular deal,” stated Westmoreland.


We missed this one, adding it now. From 7/29/11:

Westmoreland Votes to Reduce Deficits and Cap Federal Spending

Today, the House of Representatives passed the Budget Control Act of 2011. The legislation, dubbed ‘The Boehner Plan’ by the media, would cut federal deficits $917 billion over the next ten years and would allow for a $900 billion increase in the debt ceiling. In addition, it requires the House and the Senate pass a balanced budget amendment in order for future debt ceiling increases to be allowed. Congressman Westmoreland voted in favor of the legislation.

“Obviously this is not a perfect plan. It doesn’t reduce deficits enough in my opinion. And raising the debt ceiling at all is something I have a real problem with. I’m concerned raising the debt ceiling once again maintains the ‘spend now, pay later’ approach both Democrats and Republicans in Washington have used in the past that got us into this mess.

“But this legislation has two very important aspects. First, it fulfills our promise and does not raise taxes. While Americans continue to suffer from high unemployment, the most irresponsible thing we could do would be to raise taxes on job creators. Second, it includes a balanced budget amendment. Specifically, it requires that a balanced budget amendment pass the House and the Senate and be sent to the states for ratification before any future increases to the debt ceiling would be allowed. If ratified, a balanced budget amendment would constitutionally require this Congress and all future Congresses to spend within their means, eliminating these kinds of debates in the future. Plus, it puts the power back in the hands of the people and the states and allows the American people the opportunity to once again tell Washington enough is enough; that they will no longer allow the federal government to irresponsibly spend our country into financial ruin.

“Right now, Republicans only have a majority in one half of one third of our federal government. So while we continue to fight for the serious spending cuts we need to fix our debt crisis, it’s going to be an uphill battle until we have a majority in the Senate and can win back the White House. I know that $917 billion in deficit reduction is a drop in the bucket when you compare it to the trillions of dollars this government spends each year. But at the end of the day, that still brings us $917 billion closer to getting our fiscal house in order. Whether we like it or not – and I definitely do not – we are going to have to chip away at our national debt a little bit at a time because Senate Democrats and the president don’t seem to want to kick their spending addiction. Like I’ve said in the past, you can’t stop an aircraft carrier on a dime and you can’t stop a federal budget of almost $4 trillion a year in one day. But at least, with a balanced budget amendment we can stop them in the future.

“Now I know that President Obama has threatened to veto this bill if it reaches his desk because it doesn’t raise the debt ceiling enough to cover his spending habits through his reelection next year. Here’s what I have to say to him: I’m calling your bluff Mr. President. If you choose to veto legislation that puts us on the path of deficit reduction for political purposes and force this country to fail to meet its financial obligations – something you said Monday night would ‘risk sparking a deep economic crisis’ – then you will have to deal with the consequences your irresponsible actions have caused.

“House Republicans have now passed two separate pieces of legislation that give the country the means of meeting our financial obligations while reducing deficits and putting us back on the path of fiscal responsibility. Senate Democrats and the president have held lots of press conferences where they’ve talked about ‘grand deals’ and the need for ‘compromise’ and a ‘balanced approach’ – but they haven’t written a single bill to enact any of their plans. Since they can’t seem to take the time to actually draft their own legislation, the responsible thing to do here is for the Senate to pass the Budget Control Act and for the president to sign it. And I strongly encourage them to do so,” stated Westmoreland.