June 15, 2017

Brown Opening Statement at Hearing on Economic Growth

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – released the following opening statement at today’s hearing entitled, “Fostering Economic Growth: Midsized, Regional and Large Institution Perspective”

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

Senator Sherrod Brown - Opening Statement

Hearing: “Fostering Economic Growth: Midsized, Regional and Large Institution Perspective” 

Thank you, Chairman Crapo, for holding today’s hearing and thank you to our witnesses for being here today.

Based on the current Wall Street reform debate, the activity in the House, and the report put out by Treasury earlier this week, I am concerned that some seem to have forgotten that we even had a financial crisis at all.

I can assure you that the families in my home state still remember, and continue to live with the consequences of the crisis, including:

  • An unemployment rate that reached more than 10.5 percent;
  • 14 consecutive years of increasing foreclosures; and
  • More than 400,000 homes lost in five years at the height of the housing crisis.

That is to say nothing of the psychological damage caused by lost jobs and children being forced to move away from their friends and family.

In just one example, 17 percent of Ohio homeowners still owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth – the second highest rate in the nation behind Senator Cortez Masto’s and Senator Heller’s home state of Nevada.

With these experiences fresh in our minds, Congress passed Wall Street reform – including some of the most sweeping changes to financial regulation in more than 70 years.

Wall Street and its allies in Washington are attacking rules like living wills and orderly liquidation that are meant to ensure that a trillion-dollar megabank can fail without bringing down the economy with it, at the same time that they attack the capital rules that are meant to reduce the likelihood that banks will fail in the first place.

Let me be clear: proposals to weaken oversight of the biggest banks have no place in this committee’s process.

Big Wall Street banks caused a financial crisis that cost our economy up to $14 trillion, and took $160 billion in taxpayer bailouts.

They made the market for the late and unlamented predatory lenders that have left more than one-fifth of Cleveland homeowners still under water.

Letting them run wild again will not help economic growth – it will just put our economy at risk once again.

Having said that, I am optimistic that there is room for agreement on a modified regime for overseeing regional banks.

This will be the fifth hearing dedicated to the issue of these enhanced prudential standards since July of 2014.

In the last three years, I have been encouraged by the steps that the agencies have taken to better tailor standards like stress tests and living wills.

We have heard that these two rules, plus liquidity requirements, may impose the most burdens with the least amount of benefits to financial stability, when they are applied to regional banks.

We have also heard from both midsize banks and their regulators that changes should be considered to the Dodd-Frank required stress tests.

I look forward to working with the Chairman and our colleagues to explore what might make the oversight regime work better for both midsize and regional banks, as long as financial stability, safety and soundness, and consumer protections are not compromised.

Let me close with a different topic.

Wall Street Reform’s opponents accuse the law of being too partisan, despite the fact that it received Republican votes in both the House and Senate and included 15 Republican-sponsored floor amendments.

And they say that it was not well conceived, when we held more than 30 committee hearings and Chairman Dodd spent months discussing the bill with Republicans on the committee.  The bill spent more than a month on the Senate floor.

Mr. Chairman, I just want to point out that, right now, a small group of Republican Senators is crafting a health care bill behind closed doors.

They are doing it without any participation from Democrats.

The Chairman of the Finance Committee – upon which several of us sit – has no plans to hold even a single hearing on the bill.

Both Dodd-Frank and the Affordable Care Act were the product of painstaking legislative work, and have together put money back in the pockets of American families through lower health care costs and lower credit card and mortgage fees.

We owe it to these families to have an open and honest debate about the Republican health care bill.

Nothing could be more important to economic growth than safeguarding the health and financial wellbeing of working families.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you again to our witnesses. I look forward to your testimony.