COOPER URGES COLLEAGUES TO USE CIVILITY
July 14, 2011
WASHINGTON - At an Oversight & Government Reform Hearing on Consumer Financial Protection, Cooper says Congress is viewed as "dysfunctional" and encouraged colleagues to "resist partisan talking points" and partisan "food fights."
Committee on Oversight & Government
Full Committee Hearing
"Consumer Financial Protection Efforts: Answers Needed"
July 14, 2011
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I don't have a question for the witness. I do have a comment primarily aimed at the junior members of the committee on both sides of the aisle.
I think all of us realize that this Congress is viewed as dysfunctional, and, I would submit, that this Committee is also viewed as dysfunctional. And this alleged hearing is one of the reasons why. It too easily degenerates into a partisan food fight, and it doesn't have to be this way. In fact, just a few years ago in Congress, it was not this way.
So I would urge the junior members of the Committee to resist the partisan talking points that enable people on both sides of the aisle to walk in here, read a question, make a partisan hit, look like we're smart and then leave. That's not good governance regardless of which party is in charge.
I didn't vote for Dodd-Frank. It had many good features. It had some less good features. But I do not want to be part of a committee, at least at the subcommittee level, that treated Ms. Warren with more rudeness and disrespect than I have ever seen a Committee witness treated. That is not the American way.
Now some of us come here, and we get so used to the food fight that we want it to continue and you'll probably score brownie points if you make your partisan hit. You might even get on a better Committee. Well, congratulations. You will not have solved a problem.
I would suggest to the Chairman and the Ranking Member that oftentimes a seminar format is much more instructive, is much more educational than the sort of partisan charade we seem to continue to engage in with hearings like this.
I would urge Members to read one of Ms. Warren's books. I've only read The Two Income Trap. It's outstanding. Your constituents back home should read this book. Your bankers back home should read this book. Then there'd be a lot less hatred, a lot less discord, a lot less anger because this lady is trying to do the right thing.
We all recognize that consumers oftentimes get the short end of the stick. I've tried to refinance my home mortgage several times to take advantage of today's record-low interest rates. And the paperwork - they blizzard [you]. I went to a very good law school and it's almost impossible for lawyers to understand this stuff.
Ms. Warren has pointed out that the existing regulatory agencies have taken over a decade to try to simplify a couple of the forms, and they have failed. What has this committee done to simplify some of the forms? Nothing. So isn't it time for a new approach? Isn't it time for fresh thinking to give the consumers a break?
And let us also acknowledge that Congress is sometimes captured by vested interests. Sometimes that happens. And we need to resist that.
So, I would urge the Members of the Committee, particularly the junior members who are not so entrenched in bad habits, to consider new and fresher approaches to solve some of these problems so that we can protect consumers and also give legitimate industries a fair shake because all bankers are not bad people.
I'm afraid that we're falling into a rut here that is going to be to the detriment of not only this Committee and this Congress, but of the Nation. It doesn't have to be this way.
We can be civil to each other. We can be informed. We can resist the partisan talking points. But I'm not seeing that sort of behavior. At least so far.
So, let's try to do better and let's try to be civil to witnesses like Ms. Warren. Let's try to focus on the substance. Because I've actually heard very little substance here today. And there are better ways to solve our problems. I hope that this Committee will be part of those.
I thank the Chairman, and I see that my time is about to expire.