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Elijah: Principled and verbose

Elijah Cummings changed his vote from nay to yay, and here's his explanation -- in full, if you can handle the angst:

"This has been one of the most difficult votes of my 12 years in the Congress, and I know that my colleague, Donna Edwards, has shared this dilemma with me. There is no doubt among any of my colleagues that we need to take action, and that we need to act quickly.

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"Yesterday morning, one of my neighbors whose house is in foreclosure—a man who lives just a few doors down from me on Madison Avenue in Baltimore—summed it up best. He said, 'Elijah, I have been hearing about this bill to help out Wall Street, but what is in the bill to help me? What is in there to help save my home?' And, I had to tell him—not very much.

"What we need is a balance—something that benefits everyone, on every street. We need something that does not just put a patch on the problem, but that gets to the heart of the problem to keep this from happening again in the future. Sadly—very sadly, this bill does not fully address those concerns. 

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"At the same time, my stomach turns when I think about the men and women who have worked hard their entire lives who risk losing large portions of their savings if we do not act now. It literally makes me sick to think about these people waking up and finding that their portfolios have decreased  by 30 percent. When I think about the young people in my home town of Baltimore who are relying on loans to go to college and uplift themselves and their communities—when I think about these students being shut out from education because they can't get loans, it makes me ill. And, it makes me sick when I think about Drew Greenblatt, who came to my office yesterday because he is in danger of not being able to make his payroll—which would force him to begin laying off his employees—almost fifty of whom are my constituents in Baltimore.

"This legislation is very far from perfect—but it is a necessary start.  Ms. Edwards and I voted against the bill the first time it was on the House floor, and we are both original co-sponsors of an alternative plan authored by Representative DeFazio that offers a fiscally responsible alternative to a Wall Street bailout.

"The legislation under consideration today includes some of the provisions of our alternative legislation—including increasing the FDIC limit. While we would like to see something more comprehensive, that is just not a possibility at this point. For days, I have wrestled with this decision, and there are ultimately three factors that tipped the scales in support of the bill.

"One: I talked at length with Congressman Barney Frank last night about my concerns that there is not enough help for people facing foreclosure. We went through the pages of the bill together, and he showed me the measures included that will help men and women like my neighbor who are trying so desperately to cling to their dreams. It encourages servicers under the HOPE program to restructure loans whenever possible and allows renters to stay in foreclosed homes where permissible. I admit, what we discussed is not what I would like to see. More than anything, I want the government to allow bankruptcy judges to modify mortgages for primary residences. But, this is indeed a start.

"Two: I talked at length with Speaker Pelosi, voicing my concerns that there is just not enough for the people of Madison Avenue in Baltimore. She assured me that this is not the end; rather, it is just the beginning. I have the utmost respect for her and take her at her word, and I am confident that the people in Baltimore—and throughout the rest of the country—have not been forgotten. This bill gives us the leverage we need to push through real reform to fix the problems that have brought us to the brink of the destruction of our economy.

"Three: I talked at length with my good friend Senator Obama. Barack and I have always been on the same page about this issue. The two of us were warning our colleagues about predatory subprime lending long before it hit the headlines. I know that he understands the plight of the American family right now, and I know that he will be true to his heart on taking every single step necessary to fix our economy and restore people's lifetime dreams once he is President.  And, he has assured me that the Treasury Secretary in his administration will aggressively use the authorities granted to him or her in this bill.

"There is no guarantee that this recovery package will work. But, what it will do is keep things from getting worse while we have time to go back to the drawing board and craft legislation that brings the reforms we really need—the reforms that President Obama will fully back.  What it will do is make sure that Mr. Greenblatt will be able to keep his employees—and make sure he does not need to turn away contracts because he cannot get credit.

"We—the U.S. Congress—are the last line of defense for men and women across the nation. We are their last hope.  It is time for us to step up to the plate and lead.  This is our watch, and we must act right now, for this very moment.  I would have liked to see much more included in this package for the people back home in my district, and I give my word to everyone in the 7th District of Maryland that this is only the beginning and that they will not be forgotten.

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"For these reasons—because I believe that this is not the end, but is just the beginning—I have decided to support today's legislation, and I encourage all of my colleagues to do the same."


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