FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
We're going to turn back to domestic politics and continue our discussion of the bill that failed in Congress yesterday. We heard earlier in the show from the Maxine Waters who voted for the bill. Now we've got Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas who voted against the bill. Congresswoman, welcome.
Representative SHEILA JACKSON-LEE (Democrat, Texas): It's a pleasure to be with your listeners today. How are you?
CHIDEYA: I'm doing great. So, what made up your mind for you?
Rep. JACKSON-LEE: Well, I think there's no doubt that the individuals who were negotiating worked enormously hard to try and correct what was an enormous disappointment in what was presented by the administration. The administration presented the Congress with two pages that literally named the Secretary Treasury, I would say, God. And so there was an effort made to try to strengthen this bill, but my concerns were that the consumer did not have as much protection as I believe they were owed. And frankly I believe we can make a better bill. Let me just cite some examples for you - $700 billion and not any allotment or designated amount that will address the question solely of the pending mortgage foreclosures two million and growing. Limitations on judicial review. Certain authorities given to the secretary of the treasury would be barred from having judicial intervention.
Then the sections dealing with a mortgage workout, the language that they would encourage the services to try and work out the complexities of an individual's mortgage. Well, that's a polite word, but it's not a forceful word. And then lastly on this point, if you were to get a mortgage restructuring through this legislation, and your mortgage was held by multiple investors, multiple investors would have to sign off on the restructuring of your loan. So for example, if the security was held by a Japanese investor, you'd have to get their approval.
Much work was done, but I believe much work can be done, and I think we can have a better bill, and as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, I don't think there were sufficient enforcement powers that would in actuality terrorize those who were engaged in criminal malfeasance. I want for example, of those individuals, narrowly drawn of course, to be barred from doing business with the federal government. The more protection we can have for the consumers, the better off we'll be.
CHIDEYA: Let me ask about your people. The people in your district. Give us a sense of who they are, what kinds of people you have in terms of their economic status, have you been getting calls from them as this whole debate has played out? Give us a sense of the people you represent.
Rep. JACKSON-LEE: Well, I have been getting calls, and I think all of America has been engaged in this debate and this discussion. I sort of compare this to the intensity of the question of the Iraq War in 2002. One of the other situations where faith in our administration was (unintelligible).
I think that was part of the concerns of the American people, and the people in my district who called. There was a lack of trust, and my district is very multi-cultural, it has Hispanics, and African Americans, and Anglos, and Asians. It is about to 40 percent African-American, and 35 percent and growing Hispanic, and a portion Asian, and of course, a portion Anglo.
All these numbers are growing however, because our numbers are growing in Texas. They're hard-working people. There are some who are more economically able than others. I have some very, very poor people in the district. People who work very hard. So, it's really a cross section. You know, I have little towns in my district, historic areas in my district, and people who are really are hardworking, but also have a sense of pride to be an American. Their concern was that it seemed that this bailout was on their backs, when they had no fault whatsoever.
And isn't it interesting to hear members of our Congress, members of the other party, are suggesting that this mortgage crisis came about through the overutilization or the overemphasis on minorities getting mortgages, or that people were living above their means. This is what was said on the floor in the House. So, my community has a certain distrust that all of the effort would be to help those who created this debacle, and nothing for those who are actually victimized by it.
CHIDEYA: If you were to craft the bill completely on your own, you've given us some very distinct points that you would like, so I'm not saying that you should reiterate all of them, but maybe, if you were to craft a bill that passed in five minutes from now, what would be the number one thing you would ask for?
Rep. JACKSON-LEE: I would strengthen the enforcement, so that there would not be any latitude to respond or not respond. I wouldn't have the word encourage, I would say must or shall, rework the mortgages that are held by these investment banks. And I would put the onus or the burden on the investment bank to go ahead and restructure, and after the fact, secure the permission from their fellow investors. They should in essence guarantee or ensure the particular mortgagee, the holder of the mortgage, so that that person can go away whole, the restructured mortgage, and not be victimized.
The decision to bungle mortgages as security was not the decision of the individual homeowner. That homeowner went to some bank in some town, with the good intentions of achieving the American dream. It was the mortgage investment - excuse me, investment houses, who found this a golden goose if you will, and decided to buy these up. And then, decided to sell them off internationally, and then the international markets decided to buy them. So that would be the first instance. The second theme that I would have in it, is to tell the markets to calm down. To let them look at history. The savings and loans catastrophe was certainly one that we felt we'd never recover from, it was bad, there were a lot of bad actors, but we recovered in seven years.
I come from Texas, the Gulf region, where we saw the auto bust, thought we'd never come out of it. We came back, we came back strong, and not say that we wanted those unfortunate incidents, it's all (unintelligible). And we're coming back from that. The market needs to calm down, we need to ease the panic, we see some stability going on right now, and we truly need to write a bill that has some of the very important provisions that were already offered, about my friend and colleague, Congressman Waters, who did a fantastic job on the idea of minority participation and community banks, which I support strongly.
And now, add some enforcement provisions that would give a greater authority to the Department of Justice, to other jurisdictional committees like the judiciary committee, House oversight committee to ensure that our consumers, the innocent persons who live on Main Street, I mean our inner cities, the rural communities, are truly protected.
CHIDEYA: Congresswoman, thank you for your time.
Rep. JACKSON-LEE: Thank you for having me.
CHIDEYA: That was U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee who represents Texas' 18th District. And coming up next on News & Notes, R&B singer Faith Evans has lived through abuse and the murder of her estranged husband, the rapper Biggie Smalls. She documents it all in her new memoir, "Keep The Faith."
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