February 04, 2021

Brown’s Remarks During Executive Session on the Nominations of Congresswoman Marcia Fudge and Dr. Cecilia Rouse

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – today delivered remarks during an Executive Session to vote on the following nominations: The Honorable Marcia Fudge to be Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and The Honorable Cecilia Rouse to be Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Video can be found here.

Sen. Brown’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow:

Today we gather to consider the nominations of two distinguished public servants, my Congresswoman – Marcia Fudge – and Dr. Cecilia Rouse. We heard from them both last week – their passion to serve was obvious, and their knowledge and their commitment to the people who make this country work was clear.

Today also marks a changing of hands on the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee.

I want to welcome our new members Senator Ossoff, Senator Reverend Warnock, Senator Daines, Senator Lummis, and Senator Hagerty.

I look forward to working with all my colleagues on the Committee on both sides of the aisle.

I also want to thank the members who are leaving our Committee: Senator Schatz, Senator Cotton, and Senator Sasse. I appreciate your contributions to this committee over the years.

I want to be clear: the days of this committee doing the bidding of Wall Street are over.

Our first job, of course, will be to defeat the coronavirus, to prevent a tidal wave of evictions, to turn around our economy. In that, this committee will play a major role.

In 1913 – around the time we began the direct election of senators – this committee was created as the Senate Banking and Currency Committee. Fifty years ago, after Congress passed the Fair Housing Act following the assassination of Dr. King, its name was changed to the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. 

And George Romney, the father of our colleague from Utah, sat in the chair that Congresswoman Fudge will soon occupy. He was charged with implementing the new Fair Housing law – a law whose promise remains unfulfilled. 

Now, for decades, the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs has been referred to – by the media, and by most of us – as the Banking Committee. Or simply, Senate Banking. 

Perhaps that is fitting. After all, this committee has in recent years mostly looked out for Wall Street and the nation’s largest banks – too often at a cost to consumers, and almost always to the detriment of workers.

The work of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee has been too much about banks, not enough about housing, and almost nothing at all about urban affairs.

We have seen what happens when Wall Street – with an assist from the Senate – runs things. The stock market goes up, corporate profits soar, and executive compensation explodes and wages stagnate and the middle class shrinks.

That Wall Street dominance? It ends today.

We will instead work for an economy centered on the Dignity of Work – an economy that values work. 

We will give power and voice to those who have been denied a place in this economy.

We will fight discrimination in housing and structural racism in our banking system– from Black Codes to Jim Crow, from redlining to the Trump Administration’s attempts to weaken fair housing enforcement. 

We will act to build a brighter, more equitable future out of that shameful past.

Today, we will report out two women who will help lead us to that brighter future.

Congresswoman Fudge and Dr. Rouse will bring expertise and empathy to these jobs. And these two Black women, with deep ties to Ohio and the industrial heartland, will bring important perspective and life experience to the management of our economy – perspective that has been sorely lacking.

For millennia, all the world’s great religious leaders taught us about money and power, and injustice. They asked us, in every generation, what we are doing to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless and honor the Dignity of Work. History tells us that we have mostly been silent. Embarrassingly silent. 

We know several things about housing: that without affordable homes in safe neighborhoods, people don’t live as long, their medical care is inadequate, their children attend struggling schools, they don’t have nearby grocery stores with nutritious food options.

In short, housing is the gateway to opportunity, and to building a middle-class life. And too many Americans are locked out of it.

This committee will focus on housing, perhaps more than the Committee ever has. And I’m thrilled to work with my fellow Clevelander to do that.

We also know that people can’t afford housing if they don’t make a fair wage. This committee is going to do all we can to create an economy that actually values work. We are going to take on the corporate business model that treats workers as expendable and treats financial markets as a game a game Wall Street always wins.

We know that Dr. Rouse’s and Congresswoman Fudge’s work will be a big part of that, as they help lead our efforts to Build Back Better, and to create an economy that works for everyone.

Our financial system should be a public good; it already is for big banks. We should make it so for everybody else. 

We will work to restore power to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to fight for every American who does not have a corporate lobbyist. 

And this committee will always listen to science – no more climate denial, no more watching China take our clean energy jobs – and we will act – in housing, in helping banks assess risk, and in transportation. You can’t talk about the Dignity of Work without talking about how people get to and from work – and for millions of workers, that means public transit.

Today and in all subsequent hearings, I will not refer to our 108-year-old committee as only the Senate Banking Committee – you’ll hear me say the Banking Housing Committee, sometimes Housing Banking, maybe even the Public Transit Committee.

Americans have had enough of the nation’s largest banks setting the agenda for this committee, and drowning out the voices of workers and their families.

We will work for everyone.