“We know what is at stake here. The financial crisis has devastated millions of Americans.
“We know the figures: 8.4 million Americans have lost their jobs, 7 million Americans have seen their homes fall into foreclosure, and millions more Americans have had their retirement savings wiped out.
“There has been a shocking loss of wealth in this country - trillions of dollars of wealth lost – lost incomes that will never be made up, lost home values that may never come back, retirement savings gone in a flash.
“There is a lot of talk about the DOW, but we will see the stock market come back, portfolios will be fine in the long run, but middle class families across the country will be feeling the blow from these losses for years to come.
“These are problems we cannot walk away from. We must act.
“The central question that we must address in this bill is how do we restore the faith of the American consumer? The core strength of the American economy is that people have faith in the system. That faith was shattered in this crisis, and we must do our best to bring it back.
“To do that, this Wall Street reform legislation focuses on four major areas – and there has long been significant agreement on these areas between the House and the Senate.
“The bill will protect consumers from unsafe financial products, such as the subprime mortgages that led to the financial crisis.
“It will end bailouts, ensuring that failing firms can be shut down without relying on taxpayer bailouts or threatening the stability of our economy.
“It will create an advance warning system in the economy, so that there is always someone responsible looking out for the next big problem.
“It will ensure that all financial practices are exposed to the sunlight of transparency, so that exotic instruments like hedge funds and derivatives don’t lurk in the shadows and businesses can compete on a level playing field.
“And, most importantly, it will restore our financial security so that our economy can create jobs and offer middle class families a chance to build back the wealth they have lost.
“Today, we begin this conference to produce a final bill, incorporating the strongest elements from both bodies into a package that we can be proud of, and that will become the foundation of our financial regulatory structure for decades to come, upon which we hope our vibrant economy will continue to be the envy of the world.
“Chairman Frank and I have agreed to continue through this conference the open, deliberate, and transparent process by which we advanced this legislation.
“There has been, and will continue to be a full throated debate. From its origins in Committee through to the debate on the Senate floor, we extended our hand to members of both parties and included their ideas in this legislation.
You can go back all the way to April of 2009, when my staff first presented Senator Shelby with our ideas on what would go in this bill.
We have held dozens of hearings, and many of you participated.
After I presented the first discussion draft back in November, I assigned bipartisan working groups to attack the major issues in the bill.
In March, I unveiled a new bill that incorporated many of those bi-partisan ideas those working groups produced.
And beyond that, I have worked every day to keep my colleagues informed every step of the process.
“This bill was the product of collaboration of many of my colleagues before debate began on the Senate floor.
“That debate lasted nearly four weeks and some fifty votes were held on amendments from both Democrats and Republicans. One of the many that passed was the Shelby-Dodd amendment, where we were able to reach bipartisan agreement on measures to end bailouts – one of the most contentious areas of the bill.
“This conference represents an extraordinary time for the Senate Banking Committee. We are currently participating in two conferences at once. This bill and the conference with the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Iran Sanctions.
“The last time the Banking Committee held a conference was 2003 for the FACT Act, one of only two conferences completed in the four years Senator Shelby was Chairman of the Committee.
“And, continuing in that spirit of bipartisanship, in this conference, the minority can be as relevant as they choose to be in these discussions.
“I welcome constructive input as we work to finalize the essential reforms we need to ensure the long-term stability of our financial system. But I will not weaken this bill.
“Today, Chairman Frank and I present the conference report before you. It is essentially the Senate bill with valuable additions from our colleagues in the House.
“This text is not the final word. It is the jumping off point for what I expect to be a serious and thoughtful debate.
“Of course, this is a conference committee and there are parameters in terms of what is and is not within the scope of conference, what is and is not germane, but I would expect changes to be made in the coming days.
“It is our intention that this conference be done as openly as possible. Not only do we want people to know how we are proceeding, people have a right to know.
“And, continuing to place this debate before the public strengthens the case for our strong financial reform proposals.
“Many expected the Senate bill to get watered down, but that is not what happened. When the issues were debated on the Senate floor, our colleagues voted to strengthen the bill, adding reforms. It is our hope this conference will meet the same result.
“And a warning to those who still hold out hope we will, at the end of the day, let our bill be weakened by a last minute lobbying blitz – this bill, made so strong over the course of the last year, will not be weakened in the last throes of the debate.
“This is a very strong bill and it is time we get it on the President’s desk.
“Even as we sit here today, the rules of Wall Street have not changed and the same turmoil we saw in the fall of 2008 could emerge again if we fail to turn this legislation into law.
“Consumers can still be misled into abusive products, the shadow banking system still operates in darkness, and taxpayers may still be on the hook should major institutions threaten to bring down our economy once again.
“The uncertainty in our economy continues, not just in the recent volatility of our stock markets and in the continued strain in our capital markets, but in the difficulty a prospective homebuyer faces in getting a mortgage or a recent college graduate faces in finding his first job.
“And for those who think these problems could only appear once in a generation or longer, and say there is no urgent need to act, we need only look as far as Europe to see that the threat of financial instability is still real.
“But we will complete our work in a smart, deliberative way. So Chairman Frank and I have committed to working with our colleagues over the next days, and weeks, and weekends if necessary to reach agreement on a good piece of legislation that restores confidence, security and stability to this country.
“Failure, my friends, is not an option.”