|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:||CONTACT: CHRISTI HARLAN|
|Tuesday, February 1, 2000||202-224-0894|
Sen. Phil Gramm, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, made the following statement at the opening of the committee's hearing on loan guarantees and rural television service:
"We're here today to talk about the loan guarantees on the satellite bill. I think every member of Congress is familiar with the issue. It dominated the Congress in the last couple of weeks of the 1999 session.
"We are committed in this committee to produce a loan guarantee that will have the following objectives:
"It will be a rational approach to the problem of trying to provide an incentive for the private sector or some nonprofit entity, or some combination thereof, to provide access to local television signals in the more remote rural areas of America.
"We will try to write a loan guarantee program that maximizes the probability that the loans will be paid back, and the taxpayer will not be left holding the bag. I think we can achieve both objectives at the same time.
"I have tried through the recess to look back at loan guarantees for the last 75 years. I have read the bill that was adopted by the satellite conference committee in detail, and let me say that given the amount of time that they had to work on it, I think it was a good effort. I do believe that, building on what they did, that we can improve it.
"I would like to say that we will produce a bill within the deadline that we set for ourselves in the agreement. I would also like to say that no other member of the Senate has done more to make all this possible than Senator Conrad Burns. He will be testifying before the committee on Feb. 9.
"We do have a lot of work to do. We will be holding additional hearings. I believe we have started this process with an open mind – not an empty mind, but an open mind. If anybody has any suggestions for how we can improve the loan guarantee program – make it work, make it safer and sounder – we would very much like to hear them."