Tester talks bank regulation, credit, Going-to-the-Sun
November 19, 2009
Tim Leeds Havre Daily News [email protected]
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester said Wednesday that he thinks the next major item on Congress plate will be oversight and regulation of the financial industry. “I think that will be next on the docket,” the Montana Democrat said in a telephone press conference. Tester said the top item for now continues to be health care reform. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid released the Senate version of the health care reform bill Wednesday night. The decision on whether to move the bill to the floor of the Senate for debate could come as early as Saturday. If passed by the full Senate, the bill will then have to be melded with the bill already passed by the House, before the final version could be voted on and, if passed, sent to the president for his signature. Tester said he can't be certain “My crystal ball has been cloudy on this from the get-go” but he doubts the final bill reconciling the House and Senate versions will be finished before Congress adjourns for Christmas. Once work on that legislation is completed, Tester said, he expects the next major actions by Congress will either be on energy legislation or on regulation of the finance industry, with finance probably coming first. Tester said the Senate Banking Committee, on which he sits, is working on legislation about regulating finance. He said he wants to take the members of the finance industry and hold “their feet to the fire, make sure they have some skin in the game.” He said one of his goals is to make sure the national banks and industries are held accountable, while not adding restrictive regulations to local banks, to make sure the collapse of the industry that happened last year leading to the federal government issuing billions of dollars in bailout funds doesn't happen again. “The people who created this problem were not community banks, they were Wall Street folks,” Tester said. Tester also answered several questions about the credit card industry. He said a new law passed to increase regulation of that industry already has gone partially into effect and will take full effect in January. “It creates accountability for the credit card industry,” Tester said. “It didn't put onerous regulations on them, it just holds them accountable.” Tester also spoke about the money coming from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, including work in Glacier National Park. He said the top priority there is repairing the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The road, built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, is a beautiful route but is in dire need of repair, Tester said, and funding that will be the big-dollar item in the park. He said efforts have been made to make sure the spending from the Reinvestment and Recovery Act has been transparent. Some impacts in Montana have been obvious when he drives around the state, Tester said, with road and water projects and other construction under way. Tester said Vice President Joe Biden is in charge of the accountability aspect of the recovery plan, and information is available online at www.recovery.gov. The state of Montana has its own page specific to the state at http://recovery.mt.gov.