When I ran for Congress, I said I would make it my priority to get Kentuckians back to work by holding Washington politicians and bureaucrats more accountable. So when regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency continued to delay mining permits for Eastern Kentucky, I co-sponsored the Coal Jobs Protection Act, which would impose deadlines on the approval of permit applications.
When I discovered an obscure provision in Obamacare that exempts certain congressional staff, I redoubled my efforts to repeal the law and introduced the Live by the Laws You Write Act, which forces Congress and its staff to live under the same health care law it imposed on the American people.
And when I learned that an avalanche of red tape coming out of Washington was limiting access to credit for Kentucky families, farmers and small businesses, I sought a position on the Financial Services Committee to help find a solution.
In short, I'm doing exactly what the people of the 6th District elected me to do just 10 months ago.
My work on the committee is focused on helping Kentucky's community financial institutions and their customers. Recent articles in The New York Times and Herald-Leader reveal no understanding that these small businesses are the lifeblood of our local economy. Although community banks and credit unions did not cause the 2008 financial crisis, they are paying the price, languishing under the weight of Washington's Dodd-Frank Act.
Dodd-Frank was supposed to curb Wall Street's abuses and limit the influence of mega-banks. According to the Herald-Leader, Dodd-Frank was "aimed at preventing the type of mortgage boom and bust that almost brought down our economy."
In reality, Dodd-Frank is a 2,300-page monstrosity that directs bureaucrats to harass job creators with over 400 new rules and regulations. By making it more difficult for smaller institutions to compete, Dodd-Frank has actually helped Wall Street banks become even bigger, increasing systemic risk and making it harder to borrow money in places like Winchester, Richmond and Lawrenceburg.
Worse, Dodd-Frank did nothing to fix Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giant government-sponsored enterprises whose reckless policies were at the epicenter of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis.
Over the last several months, I have worked with Republicans and Democrats to develop creative solutions to address the true causes of the financial crisis, prevent future bailouts and ease the regulatory burden on community financial institutions.
For example, I supported legislation that would wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and remove barriers to private capital in housing finance. I also introduced the Portfolio Lending and Mortgage Access Act, legislation that would help creditworthy borrowers qualify for loans while easing the burden of Dodd-Frank on community banks. The Times says my bill would allow banks to make mortgage loans to people who cannot afford to repay them. But it would actually prevent some of the practices that caused the financial crisis and encourage banks to make only responsible loans.
The most common concern expressed to me by people who work in our hometown banks is that overregulation has limited their ability to serve their communities in the ways they know best. My bill responds to that concern by offering regulatory relief to community-based lenders that originate mortgages and then hold them on their books, retaining the risk rather than selling them into the secondary market.
Hardly a favor to Wall Street, this legislation would better align the interests of lenders with borrowers' ability to repay, preventing traders from playing fast and loose with subprime mortgages, all while making credit available to Kentuckians based on the personalized judgment of local bankers, not the rigid guidelines of Washington bureaucrats.
Finally, although some credit unions want Congress to raise their loan limits so they can operate more like banks, I oppose such a move. Kentucky credit unions have made it clear that their priority is preserving their tax-exempt status. As long as credit unions continue to operate as credit unions and not as banks, their longstanding tax exemption remains appropriate.
Given recent scandals at the State Department over Benghazi and at the Internal Revenue Service for targeting some organizations because of their political beliefs, it's understandable why so many have lost faith in government. But it's also why I'm committed to fighting for Kentuckians and continuing my efforts to hold Washington accountable, regardless of the unfounded attacks I may have to endure in the process.
At issue: Aug. 11 New York Times article, "Committee seat has Andy Barr surrounded by industry cash; freshman Ky. lawmaker raised $150,000 in PAC funds in 6 months" and Aug. 13 Herald-Leader editorial, "Barr's dubious distinction; Wall Street advocacy concerning"
U.S. Rep. Andy Barr of Lexington represents Kentucky's 6th District.