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Henry B. Gonzalez - Gonzalez and the Financial Crises of the 1980s

Gonzalez was selected to chair the Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs Committee in 1989. Under his leadership, the committee was able to enact several pieces of legislation favoring consumer groups, such as improved credit measures for small businesses, federal flood insurance reform, and increased accountability of the Federal Reserve. In addition, Gonzalez pushed for strengthening anti-money laundering laws and harsher punishment for bank fraud and other financial crimes.

Throughout the 1980s, Gonzalez warned against the potential dangers of federal deregulation of the savings and loan industry. After his prediction became a reality, he was given the task of structuring the bailout legislation. He accepted the assignment on the condition that those responsible, both in the private sector and their legislative supporters, be publicly recognized for their wrongdoing. His efforts resulted in pressure from a number

of his fellow Democrats to resign, but Gonzalez remained true to his cause. In 1991 he was successful in reforming the federal deposit insurance system. During his tenure as chairman,

Photograph: Henry B. Gonzalez serving as Banking Committee chairman, 1989. Gonzalez (Henry B.) Papers, CAH; E-HBG-0029.

Henry B. Gonzalez serving as Banking Committee chairman, 1989. Gonzalez (Henry B.) Papers, CAH; E-HBG-0029.

Gonzalez earned a reputation for being a fair leader who allowed equitable participation in the creation of bills while reinforcing his legacy of championing the cause of the ordinary people affected by legislation he oversaw.

Gonzalez gained national attention once again in 1992, when he investigated loans made from President George Bush and his colleague James Baker to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. His investigation showed the $3 billion loans supposedly designed to support Iraqi agricultural projects were actually spent for weapons development. Gonzalez went on to oppose military action in the Persian Gulf during the 1991 Gulf War. He even called for Bush's impeachment on the grounds that through his previous financial support of Hussein the president had eliminated any chance of finding a peaceful resolution.

During his long congressional career, Gonzalez received numerous honors, including the National Alliance to End Homelessness Award, the Texas Civic Leadership Award, the B'Nai B'Rith National Humanitarian Award, the 1992 National Rural Housing Legislator of the Year, and the 1994 Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Foundation.

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