Senate Republicans voted three times in three days this past week to block the Senate from even considering legislation to rein in Wall Street and big banks, but on Thursday the formal debate began on what press reports ballyhooed as the most sweeping finance industry overhaul since the Great Depression. Maybe the bill will live up to that hype, but maybe not. As amendments are considered in the coming weeks, Senator Sanders wants the legislation strengthened to break up the country's biggest banks, put a ceiling on interest rates that can be charged to credit card customers, and make the Federal Reserve reveal the names of the institutions borrowing its funds. Sanders is leading a left-right coalition in favor of Fed transpancy against strong opposition from Wall Street and the White House. To join the thousands on YouTube who have watched Bernie outline the issues in a Senate floor speech, click here . To read a quick Sanders summary of the critical issues in a column published by the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill, click here.
Fed Secrecy Chairman Ben Bernanke's Federal Reserve acts more like the secret Skull and Bones society than a taxpayer-funded public body in the world's greatest democracy. A growing bipartisan coalition supports a Sanders amendment to make the Federal Reserve divulge the names of financial institutions that took trillions of dollars in secret loans. The measure has brought together a growing list of Democratic and Republican senators. The Obama administration has sided with the Fed and powerful Wall Street interests in opposition to the amendment. “When it comes to openness vs. secrecy, Wall Street vs. Main Street, taxpayers vs. the big bankers, I am sorry to say that the White House has come down on the wrong side,” Sanders said. “With growing support for this amendment from both the left and right, I hope that the administration reconsiders.” Sanders' Senate amendment is nearly identical to legislation by Representative Ron Paul that the House of Representatives already passed overwhelmingly. It has now been endorsed by a wide spectrum of public interest organizations. Backers include Americans for Financial Reform, which is a coalition of more than 250 consumer, employee, investor, community and civil rights groups including the AFL-CIO and AARP. Other supporters include Americans for Tax Reform; the Campaign for Liberty; the Citizens Against Government Waste; the Rutherford Institute; the Eagle Forum and others. Read more about it the growing support for Sanders proposal here.
Breakup the Banks "One of the major components of any serious Wall Street reform has got to be breaking up the largest financial institutions in the country. The time has come to do exactly what Teddy Roosevelt did back in the trust-busting days and break up these huge financial institutions," Sanders said on Monday. The giant financial institutions must be dismantled not only to protect taxpayers from future bailouts, but because the concentration of ownership in the financial sector is leading to fewer choices, higher bank fees, and higher credit card interest rates. Three out of the four biggest American banks - Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America - are larger today than they were before taxpayers bailed them out as the economy collapsed in 2008. Combined with Citigroup, the four largest U.S. banks now write half of the mortgages, issue two-thirds of the credit cards, and hold $7.4 trillion in assets, more than half the nation's economic output. To read more, click here.
Wall Street Clout After it was reported that "1,500 lobbyists, executives, bankers and others" are doing everything they can to weaken the Senate financial reform bill, Sanders had a two-word reply: "No kidding!" On Thursday, The Center for Responsive Politics released a new study that found the finance, insurance and real estate industries spent $123.1 million so far this year as Congress debated new financial regulations. "Every American should understand that the challenge we're dealing with in the Senate is not whether Congress can regulate Wall Street, but to what degree Wall Street regulates Congress," Sanders said. A controversial Supreme Court ruling earlier this year could make matters worse by opening the floodgates for corporations to spend shareholder money on political advertising . . .
Corporate Campaign Cash Sanders cosponsored legislation introduced Thursday to rein in the influence of special interest corporate cash in federal elections. The measure is a response to a Jan. 21 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which lifted strict limits in place for decades on corporate spending on political campaigns. "Congress must move forward aggressively in response to the ruling that would open the flood gates for the largest corporations to spend unlimited resources electing candidates who represent their interests," Sanders said. "Unless the law is changed, the ruling will give control of the political process to the wealthiest and most powerful institutions in the world and the candidates who support their agenda. Instead of democracy being about one-person one-vote, it will be about the size of a company's bank account." To read more about the bill, click here.
Stand Up and Yell and Scream For a quick take on the battle to come in Congress over financial reform and how you can help influence the debate, watch the new Senator Sanders Unfiltered Web video.