Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, released the following statement urging the House of Representatives to approve amendments offered by her to the Defense, Commerce, Justice, Science, Energy and Water Development, Financial Services and General Government, Homeland Security, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Act, 2021. The amendments offered by Waters include provisions to prevent the Securities and Exchange Commission from using funds from this bill to implement a new rule to weaken investor protections, to provide additional funding for critical health priorities, and prevent the Trump administration from implementing harmful rules that undermine COVID-19 data collection and weaken infection control standards.
Madame Speaker, I am pleased that this legislation includes important funding to support individuals, families, workers, small businesses and communities. I urge all Members to support the following amendments that I have offered to H.R. 7617, the Defense, Commerce, Justice, Science, Energy and Water Development, Financial Services and General Government, Homeland Security, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Act, 2021 and I urge that they all be retained during further consideration of this measure.
Managers Amendment to H.R. 7617
I want to thank Chairwoman Lowey and Chairman Quigley for including the text of the Garcia-Waters amendment in the manager’s amendment, which was adopted by the Rule. The Garcia amendment would direct the Secretary of Treasury to negotiate a two-trillion-dollar allocation of Special Drawing Rights by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Such an increase would have an immediate benefit to developing countries around the world by providing them with additional resources to address the pandemic. This amendment comes at no cost to the Treasury and would demonstrate our commitment to a global and coordinated approach to addressing the coronavirus.
Special Drawing Rights, or SDRs, are a reserve asset created by the IMF that are used to augment the international reserves of its members countries, and a new allocation would provide quick and much-needed assistance to developing and emerging-market countries as they respond to the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I do not share the concerns of some opponents of a new SDR allocation about the possible inflationary effect of such an allocation. An independent study at Harvard that closely examined this question concluded that any possible global inflationary impact of some increased import demand by developing countries following an allocation of SDRs would likely be neutralized by the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, and other inflation-targeting central banks.
If SDRs were issued on a regular basis, I think this issue would be a concern—but they are not. The last general and special SDR allocation was issued in August 2009, and during the six months that followed—which was an exceptionally difficult time for the world economy—less than 2 percent of the total SDR allocation was exchanged for usable currencies. Thirteen countries sold nearly their total allocation; three additional countries made partial sales. There was no inflationary impact.
Importantly, the amendment also directs the Secretary of the Treasury to begin immediate efforts to reach an agreement with the G-20 group of nations to extend through the end of 2021 the current moratorium on debt service payments owed by the world’s poorest countries to more advanced economies. This includes China, which is by far the largest official bilateral creditor to developing countries.
Waters Amendment #215 to H.R. 7617
On July 22, 2020, the SEC dealt a blow to investor protection and to the American people, when it adopted amendments to proxy voting rules which, among other things, increased issuer involvement in the advice that proxy advisors give to their clients. Waters Amendment #215 would prohibit the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from using funds appropriated under this Act to implement, administer, or enforce this newly-adopted final rule because the rule harms shareholder voting rights and undermines the independence of advice provided to shareholders.
Proxy advisory firms play an important role in providing research and advice to shareholders regarding matters facing the companies they are investing in, and inform investors about the best way to vote in annual meetings. Thus, the integrity of that advice mandates that it be provided free of company management’s conflicted input and unwarranted interference. Also, the regulations on proxy advisory firms, as adopted, may drive up costs for investors and make it more difficult for them to cast informed votes. The rule will also reduce the already-tight reporting window for providing reports to investors. And, perhaps most importantly, the SEC’s misguided rule may tilt voting advice more favorably towards management. My amendment would prohibit the SEC from using funds appropriated under this Act to implement, administer, or enforce the newly-adopted final rule and will prevent the resulting harm.
This latest attack on shareholder rights is only compounded by the SEC’s proposed changes to the shareholder proposal rule, that would make it more difficult for shareholders to offer and resubmit proposals for broad shareholder consideration. I appreciate that H.R. 7617 includes language to prevent the SEC from using funding to implement, administer, or enforce these proposed changes to the shareholder proposal rule.
Waters Amendment #216 to H.R. 7617
This amendment relates to ensuring that $68.4 million of the $273.5 million appropriated to the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund are reserved for technical and financial assistance awards to minority Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), including minority depository institutions (MDIs), and that the Fund report to Congress on the implementation of such allocation. This amount represents 40 percent of the $171 million of funding made available for financial and technical assistance awards for all certified CDFIs.
We have learned in this pandemic how that minority-owned and minority-led financial institutions are critical to delivering access to capital to communities of color, the same communities that have been disproportionately and hardest hit. Unfortunately, following passage of the CARES Act, I quickly saw the problems with the Administration’s efforts to roll out the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Not only did the program set unreasonable barriers for CDFIs to participate, the Administration seemed to look the other way as the big banks turned away truly small businesses and minority-owned businesses, and instead provided concierge services to large companies that are publicly traded with ample financial resources.
When Congress began work on a second round of PPP funds, I worked with Speaker Pelosi and Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez to ensure CDFIs would be able to access funds. We pushed for and successfully secured a $60 billion set aside in the law for community lenders, including CDFIs and MDIs, to ensure they could deploy PPP funds to small businesses and minority-owned businesses in their communities. I also worked with Secretary Mnuchin to eliminate barriers so that more CDFIs could participate. These actions have produced results – CDFIs and MDIs have provided more than 213,000 PPP loans to small businesses, including many minority-owned businesses, totaling more than $16.1 billion as of July 24, 2020. We have also included additional provisions in the Heroes Act -- which the Senate should pass without further delay -- to ensure CDFIs have a chance to help truly small businesses and minority-owned businesses in their communities during this pandemic. This included an emergency $1 billion appropriation to the CDFI Fund.
I am pleased the underlying appropriations bill provides more resources than last year to the CDFI Fund, though we should ensure a portion of these funds go to minority-owned and minority-led CDFIs, including MDIs, to ensure these funds reach underserved areas. Unfortunately, the CDFI Fund does not track the demographics of who owns or runs the financial institutions receiving financial and technical assistance awards through its primary program. This amendment encourages the CDFI Fund to begin doing so, and to set aside funds to ensure MDIs and other minority-led CDFIs receive funds to support customers and small businesses desperate for a lifeline during these difficult times.
Waters Amendment #339 to H.R. 7617
This amendment would extend a deadline for housing counselors to meet a new certification requirement. In August of 2017, HUD began implementation of a new housing counselor certification requirement in which housing counselors had 36-months to pass a new certification examination. However, due in part to HUD’s administrative delays that were exacerbated by the closure of certification examination testing sites as a result of the pandemic, we are now less than a week away from the certification deadline, and less than half of nearly 4,000 housing counselors are currently certified. HUD has requested the authority to extend this deadline to ensure that the availability of housing counseling services is not suddenly and dramatically reduced.
During the Great Recession, housing counseling services were a lifeline for more than 2 million homeowners. An evaluation conducted by the Urban Institute found that, when compared to homeowners who did not receive housing counseling services, counseled homeowners were three times more likely to secure loan modifications, received reduce mortgage payments, and were 70 percent more likely to remain current on their mortgages.
The current crisis is no different. Every day we are hearing from housing counselors across the country that homeowners and renters continue to lack vital in-language and culturally sensitive information about their rights under the CARES Act, do not understand what forbearance is or whether it is the right option for them, are unaware of local rent and mortgage relief funds, and continue to be misled by mortgage servicers about their rights under federal law. This signals a potential influx of households who would benefit greatly from credit counseling and other housing counseling services that are crucial to help manage their financial health and mitigate long-term harm during the pandemic.
At a time when millions of families are faced with the threat of foreclosure and eviction, damaged credit, and depleted savings, my amendment ensures homeowners and renters are not harmed by a lack of availability of housing counseling services during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The ability of these families to stay housed and the economic health of the nation depend on it.
Waters Amendment #150 to H.R. 7617
Under this amendment, no funds may be used to contravene the duties and responsibilities of United States attorneys. In what was, tragically, just the latest example of the Attorney General interfering with the duties of a federal prosecutor, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, was forced out of office on June 20, 2020. Mr. Berman later revealed that the Attorney General repeatedly urged him to resign, a startling and suspicious revelation considering that Mr. Berman, in his capacity as U.S. Attorney for S.D.N.Y, was investigating a plethora of cases related to the Trump Administration, including charges against associates of Rudy Giuliani, investigations of Mr. Giuliani himself, and investigations into the finances of the Trump inaugural committee. This firing appears to be another example of the Attorney General using Department of Justice funds to benefit the president politically or personally. My amendment would make clear that such use of taxpayer dollars is utterly unacceptable and prohibited.
Waters-Schakowsky-Dingell Amendment #302 to H.R. 7617
This amendment is designed to protect residents of nursing homes. The amendment prohibits the use of funds to finalize, implement, or enforce the Trump Administration’s July 2019 proposed nursing home rule, which deregulates nursing homes and weakens infection prevention standards in them. This amendment is cosponsored by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who introduced H.R. 6698, the Quality Care for Nursing Home Residents and Workers during COVID-19 Act, and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. Nursing home residents have been hit especially severely by the COVID-19 pandemic, and this is certainly no time to weaken the infection control standards that protect these vulnerable citizens.
Waters-Watson Coleman Amendment #303 to H.R. 7617
This amendment prohibits the use of funds to require hospitals, hospital laboratories, and acute care facilities to report COVID-19 data using the “teletracking.protect.hhs.gov” website that was announced by the Department of Health and Human Services in the document entitled “COVID-19 Guidance for Hospital Reporting and FAQs for Hospitals, Hospital Laboratory, and Acute Care Facility Data Reporting Updated July 10, 2020”. This guidance update requires a data reporting process that circumvents the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by ordering hospitals, hospital laboratories, and acute care facilities to send COVID-19 patient data directly to a database managed by TeleTracking, a private health data firm, and built by Palantir, the data mining company owned and operated by mega-Trump donor Peter Thiel. Sending COVID-19 data to a private firm instead of the CDC would harm our ability to track the spread of COVID-19.
Waters-B. Lee-Chu Amendment #304 to H.R. 7617
This amendment increases by $5 million the funds within the account of the Office of the Secretary designated for the Minority AIDS Initiative. It is cosponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the Co-Chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, and Congresswoman Judy Chu. As a long-time leader on HIV/AIDS issues, I established the Minority AIDS Initiative in 1998, working with the Clinton Administration and the Congressional Black Caucus, and I know how important this program is for minority communities that continue to be severely and disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS. These additional funds will allow the Minority AIDS Initiative to provide HIV/AIDS prevention, screening, and treatment services to additional people in affected minority communities.
Waters-C. Smith Amendment #305 to H.R. 7617
As the Co-Chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, I offered Amendment #305 to increase by $5 million the funds for the BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act. This bipartisan amendment is cosponsored by Congressman Christopher H. Smith, the Republican Co-Chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease. This amendment increases funds for BOLD from $14.5 million to $19.5 million, bringing the account close to the authorized level of $20 million, in order to jump start the development of a public health infrastructure for Alzheimer’s patients, their families, and their caregivers.
Waters-Schakowsky Amendment #306 to H.R. 7617
This amendment increases by $5 million the funds in the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM) within Maternal and Child Health account of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The amendment is cosponsored by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. The AIM program assists state-based teams to improve the quality and safety of maternity care with the goal of reducing maternal mortality and improving maternal health. According to HRSA, the rate of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. has more than doubled since 1987, and non-Hispanic Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native women are significantly more likely to die from pregnancy related causes than non-Hispanic White women. An increase in funds for AIM will help improve maternal health and enable more pregnant women to safely deliver their babies.
I want to thank the Rules Committee for making in order each of these amendments, and I urge my colleagues to vote “Yes” on each of these amendments.