|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:||CONTACT: CHRISTI HARLAN|
|Monday, January 22, 2001||202-224-0894|
Sen. Phil Gramm, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, today outlined an agenda for the Banking Committee in the 107th Congress. Among the issues and his comments:
Export Administration Act. After a lapse of several years, the Export Administration Act was reauthorized last year, but only through Aug. 20, 2001. That date was selected specifically to give time for Congress to complete the work, begun in early 1999, to modernize and refocus our export control system.
"We're going to begin with a bipartisan effort on the Export Administration Act. This is a critically important law. It seeks to balance the national security needs of the country with our desire to be the world's largest producer and exporter of high-tech items. I hope this will be the first major piece of legislation to pass this Congress on a totally bipartisan basis."
Securities Fee Reduction Legislation. Gramm and other members of the Banking Committee will reintroduce legislation to reduce the excess fees collected by the government in the name of funding the Securities and Exchange Commission. For a budget of just over $400 million, the SEC is on track to collect over $2 billion this year in fees on securities transactions and registration.
"The objective of these taxes was to raise money to pay for the operation of the Securities and Exchange Commission. It was never our intention, in any law that we have ever passed on this subject, to create a situation where we would collect substantially more revenues than we used to fund the Securities and Exchange Commission.
"But what has happened, with the explosion in volume and value, is that we are now collecting five times as much as we need to fund the SEC....This is a tax on every small business issuing stock and therefore is a tax on the seed corn of society. It is a tax on every teacher retirement program, every mutual fund. It is a tax on 50 million people who are doing what we want them to do, and that is they're saving and investing for their future, for their retirement. This is an unfair tax, and it is one that we intend to reduce."
Securities Law Review. Gramm has asked his committee staff to begin a top-to-bottom review of U.S. securities laws. The basic securities laws are over 60 years old, and they are showing their age. The Securities Act of 1933 was based upon the assumption that market information was hard to get and expensive. Today, it is easy to obtain and virtually cost-free. The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 was based on a stock exchange model that is universally recognized as being out of date.
"Over the years, the markets have changed dramatically, and we need to go back and look at our laws and our regulations. We need to pose the following question: Are the benefits we get from this regulation or this law greater than, equal to, or less than the cost they impose on the market? And if they're less, we ought to look at changing them or getting rid of them."
Government Sponsored Enterprises. While no legislation is currently planned, there will be a continuing need for oversight of the activities of government sponsored enterprises (GSEs).
"The GSEs perform a very important role. Congress has given them a clear mission. The question is, are they performing that mission, are they getting far beyond it? To what degree is the taxpayer on the hook as a potential holder of contingency liabilities? These are all things that periodically need to be looked at."
"I think there is a growing consensus on our committee that we need to reform American coinage. Senator Sarbanes and I held a roundtable discussion where we had the Smithsonian, we had the numismatic associations, we had various coin designers and artists. And the basic situation we have is that when we started our coinage, it was generally assumed that a coin would change about every 25 years. Our penny design was set in place in 1909.
"So we're going to take a long, hard look at coinage. We're going to invest some money in trying to develop new composites and new metallurgy that would allow us to produce coins that look and feel like the great coins in American history did."
"We have a very powerful trade jurisdiction in this committee. We have jurisdiction over all trade matters except tariffs. Tariffs are under the Finance Committee, but all other trade jurisdiction is under our committee. We're going to take a very active role in the World Trade Organization, in trade promotion."
"We will participate in writing a new bankruptcy bill. As you know, there were banking provisions in the old bankruptcy bill. It is my plan now for us to begin and have a markup of our part of the bill in the Banking Committee rather than allowing it to be written on the floor by people who are not on the Banking Committee. I think we will write, and the president will sign, a new bankruptcy bill. I think it will be a better bill than President Clinton vetoed."
Ex-Im Bank; Defense Production Act. At the end of this fiscal year, the Defense Production Act and the legislation authorizing the Ex-Im Bank will expire.
"We're going to do a comprehensive rewrite of both these bills. The Defense Production Act is probably the most powerful and potentially dangerous piece of American law. It gives the president extraordinary powers. Richard Nixon imposed wage and price controls under the Defense Production Act. And so we're going to take a long, hard look at both these bills and do a comprehensive rewrite of both."
Housing Reform. Last year, the Committee passed some important housing reform measures and a manufactured housing bill that became part of a package enacted at the end of the Congress. The Committee will examine this year, under the leadership of Senator Allard and in close cooperation with Secretary Martinez, a more comprehensive review of our housing authorities to make sure that they provide the most assistance in the most efficient way to the people of this country.
"I believe in the housing area that we will probably spend 2001 in oversight, but I believe we will write a major housing bill in 2002. I am proud of the bill we passed at the end of the last Congress. Senator Sarbanes and I worked together on a bipartisan basis on that bill. And while it got relatively little publicity, there were a lot of good things in that bill."
"We start our monetary policy hearings with our first-ever Federal Reserve monetary policy report. In February we'll have Alan Greenspan before the committee."
"We've got a lot of confirmation hearings to do. As you know, we have about half the people at the Treasury Department, everybody at HUD, and we have other people spread out through the government....We have a tremendous number of good people who want to be SEC chairman. And I view that as a very good thing. I don't have a candidate, so I'm in the happy position that I can look at everybody."
Organization of the Committee.
"We are well along in organizing the committee. I have made a proposal to Senator Sarbanes as to how we structure our subcommittees. We always have more members who want to be on the Securities Subcommittee, the Democrats have more members who want to be on the Housing Subcommittee, and what we're trying to do is to accommodate everybody."