Editor's note: Congresswoman Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, spoke to MediaNews last week about President Barack Obama's inauguration, the new administration, and her legislative priorities.
Q: What do you expect you'll be feeling and thinking as you watch the inauguration?
A: I think that I'm going to be replaying in my mind Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail." I'm going to be recalling how we were auctioning off the slaves of landowners and Founding Fathers 220 or 230 years ago and what a shining moment this is for all of us who are proud to be Americans.
Q: President-elect Obama is getting criticism from the left that his economic stimulus plan may not be ambitious enough, while conservatives are warning against increasing the deficit through massive spending. How bold do you think Obama and the Congress ought to be?
A: Well, I don't want this to be political, but the truth of the matter is there was surplus when George Bush came into office. The extraordinary deficits that have been run up during the last eight years have come under his leadership. And the extraordinary efforts last year to bail out Wall Street through the Troubled Asset Recovery Program have been at the request of the president and his treasury secretary.
I truly do not want to suggest that we are going to focus on the past — we are focusing on the future. And I also believe it is critical
The fact that President-elect Obama has signaled that he wants about $275 billion in tax cuts is aimed directly at the Republican members of Congress, because that appeals to them. The members of my financial advisory team that I've spoken to, including academics and experts from my district — they're against them.
I think President-elect Obama has already established that he is going to reach out to Republicans. His cabinet picks are one example.
He is a real student of history, both in his reference to the "team of rivals" that Lincoln was famous for and for his study of FDR's approach to dealing with the Great Depression.
If we have learned anything from that time, it is that after the stock market dissolved in 1929, fiscal and monetary policies became very restrictive, and that sent us into the Great Depression.
And it wasn't until the policies of the New Deal were instituted later that the country began to pull out of it. I think he's really reading history and wants to makes sure that we don't repeat the same mistakes.
Q: What are your legislative priorities this year?
A: I've proposed what I call the F.A.I.R. Plan, which stands for "fighting for accountability, innovation and reform." The details are available on my Web site (http://speier.house.gov).
I think the American people deserve accountability of their financial institutions and of government. And my goal is going to be to deliver that, whether that's working on bills and amendments in the Financial Services Committee or in hearings of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
We need to provide stronger oversight of our financial markets. I will be introducing a bill within the next month to reform the credit rating agencies to make sure they are paid from a fund and not by the firms they're supposed to rating.
Q: National issues aside, what are your top priorities for the 12th Congressional District and the Bay Area?
A: I have introduced a bill that I have been joined in authoring by Rep. Anna Eshoo (The Equitable Treatment of State and Local Governments Act of 2009) which would basically make whole all local jurisdictions that were invested in Lehman Brothers, by instructing the Treasury Department to use money from the Troubled Asset Recovery Program to buy bonds from local governments at face value.
That's a specific measure. Certainly there will be opportunities with the fiscal stimulus package that will be discussed for funding local transportation projects, including Caltrain and San Francisco International Airport.