Doug Sword

Podcast: Banking Deregulation in the Air
CQ on Congress, Episode 95

CQ banking reporter Doug Sword explains the state of play as Republicans (and some Democrats) try to relax banking regulations enacted during the Obama administration to safeguard against a repeat of the 2008 financial meltdown.

Senate Passes Bank Deregulation Bill, House May Seek Additions
More than a dozen Democratic senators joined all Republicans

The Senate voted Wednesday to pass a bill that would be the biggest bank deregulation since 1999 and would roll back parts of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul.

More than a dozen Democrats joined the Republicans to pass the bill, sending it to the House, where conservative Republicans may seek to attach further provisions to roll back the 2010 law. Republicans will be trying to straddle the line between the extensive reversal of bank regulation that they seek and keeping on board the Senate Democrats who will be needed to clear the measure.

Fed Chairman Weighs in on Financial Deregulation Bill Set for Senate Debate
Senate set to consider measure on the floor next week

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell used his first appearance before the Senate Banking Committee to endorse the main features of a financial deregulation bill that the Senate is set to debate on the floor next week. 

Powell told the panel Thursday that the “most significant” provision in the bill is the replacement of the Dodd-Frank threshold for stringent Fed regulation of banks. The 2010 Dodd-Frank law put the threshold at $50 billion in assets. The bill would raise that to $250 billion, and reduce the number of banks effected from 44 to 13.

Senators Rebuke GSA, FBI Over Handling of FBI Headquarters
Abrupt abandonment of years-long process to relocate miffs lawmakers

Republican and Democratic senators on Wednesday blasted the General Services Administration and the FBI over costs, press leaks and changes in security requirements in its redrawn plan for a new FBI headquarters.

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso complained at a hearing that senators learned of the GSA’s abrupt cancellation of a previous FBI plan last year through press reports rather than from the agencies. He also cited the missed deadlines on that plan, which had been more than a decade in the making.

Senate Banking Panel Advances Fed, Two Other Financial Nominees
Economics professor Marvin Goodfriend endorsed for Federal Reserve Board

The Senate Banking Committee narrowly endorsed Thursday the nomination of Marvin Goodfriend to the Federal Reserve Board as Democrats complained that the economics professor is more focused on fighting inflation than creating jobs.

Goodfriend faced opposition from Democrats because of what they described as a lack of commitment to the Fed’s goal of supporting maximum employment. His nomination advanced on a party-line vote of 13-12.

Steven Mnuchin Mostly Meh on Market Drop
Treasury secretary says Russia sanctions are on the way

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers Tuesday that he’s unworried about the sharp drop in equity markets in recent days and noted the stock market is still much higher than it was at the start of the Trump administration.

Mnuchin also said President Donald Trump would be able to appoint a regulator next year for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government sponsored mortgage giants, adding that the official would have the power to unilaterally curtail affordable housing programs backed by Democrats.

Latest Wells Fargo Penalties Add Fuel to Dodd-Frank Debate
Democrats fret that banks will get off easy under new Federal Reserve leadership

Democrats are praising former Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen’s actions against Wells Fargo & Co. and questioning whether the Fed will continue to be as tough now that she has left the central bank.

The Fed’s cease-and-desist order released Friday evening, on Yellen’s final day as chairwoman, restricts the nation’s third-largest bank to the $1.95 trillion in total consolidated assets it had at the end of 2017, a move the company estimates will cut its earnings this year by between $300 million and $400 million. The company had a net income of $22.2 billion in 2017.

Higher Education Bill Expected in Senate Soon
“I see a consensus emerging that is student focused,” Alexander says

The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee appeared Thursday to agree on a number of provisions they would like to see in a new bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, which would streamline student loans.

Chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said at a hearing that he hopes to have a Senate version of the reauthorization ready “by early spring.” A House reauthorization bill was approved by the Education and the Workforce Committee on a 23-17 party-line vote in December.

Senate Banking Advances Powell Nomination for Fed Chairman
Sen. Elizabeth Warren only senator to vote against recommendation

The Senate Banking Committee voted 22-1 Tuesday to recommend confirmation of Jerome Powell as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren voted against the recommendation.

Powell received the support of Chairman Michael D. Crapo, who had voted against him during his renomination to the Fed board in 2014.

Garrett’s Jabs at Export-Import Bank May Stop His Bid to Lead It
The former N.J. congressman once voted against reauthorizing the bank

Former New Jersey Rep. Scott Garrett faces an unusual combination of Democrats and business groups opposing his nomination to lead the Export-Import Bank as the Senate hearing on his confirmation approaches.

Garrett, who lost his bid for re-election in 2016, is part of the wing of the Republican Party that sees the Ex-Im Bank’s loan, insurance and guarantee programs as corporate welfare that mainly benefits large companies. He was a founding member of the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus. 

At Equifax Hearings, Senators Complain of Deja Vu
It’s ‘long past time’ Congress set standards for data security, Grassley says

Senate Judiciary Committee members voiced exasperation about holding another hearing on whether consumers’ personal information is secure as Richard Smith, the former CEO of Equifax, made his third congressional appearance in two days to explain a security breach that allowed hackers to gain access to personal data — names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and some driver’s license information — on more than 145 million consumers. 

Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa said Wednesday that it is “long past time” that Congress set standards for data security, adding that he was “committed to getting a good bill ... over the finish line.”

Democrats Exclude CFPB in Faulting Regulators of Wells Fargo
Currency comptroller, Federal Reserve and FDIC criticized

A House Democratic report on Wells Fargo’s fraudulent creation of millions of bank and credit card accounts faulted the oversight of regulators including the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

But the report released Friday by Democratic staff on the House Financial Services Committee didn’t blame the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for flaws in the investigation or enforcement at Wells Fargo, the nation’s second-largest bank by market capitalization.

Military Groups Join Democrats’ Defense of Arbitration Rule
‘We will not accept a future where our military veterans’ financial protections are chipped away’

Service member and veterans groups on Wednesday criticized a Republican effort to overturn the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule barring mandatory arbitration in many consumer contracts. 

The groups joined Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a member of the Senate Banking Committee, to oppose Senate Republicans’ plan to pass a measure that would repeal the CFPB rule. The rule took effect Monday, but the agency is giving companies until March 2018 to comply.

Lawmakers Push Broad Review of Equifax Security
Democrats cite precedence of reaction to OPM data breach

Lawmakers are responding to credit-reporting company Equifax’s loss of data on up to 143 million customers with a flurry of proposed legislation, demands for explanations, hearings and calls for regulators to investigate.

Democrats are leading the charge on legislation and investigations while Republicans join in with demands for an explanation from the company and with plans to hold hearings. Members of both parties are seeking details of Equifax’s work for government agencies. Democrats are also trying to pressure Republicans to be at least as tough on Equifax as they were with a government agency that suffered its own breach.

Crapo Not Committed to Banking Hearing on Equifax Breach
Chairman says staff is studying topic

Senate Banking Chairman Michael D. Crapo said Tuesday his staff was studying the data breach at Equifax, but he hasn’t decided whether to hold a hearing on the issue and he wasn’t sure if the breach would affect the Republican effort to repeal the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s arbitration rule.

The Idaho Republican led a committee hearing Tuesday on a separate issue — the promise and the dangers of the burgeoning financial technology industries, like blockchain and mobile lending — but the event was overshadowed by the breach that Equifax has said may have resulted in the theft of personal information of up to 143 million Americans.

House Republicans Vote to Strip Away Post-Financial Crisis Safeguards
Bill isn’t expected to be taken up in the Senate

House Republicans voted 233-186 Thursday to repeal large parts of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul, just one month short of the seventh anniversary of the landmark law’s enactment.

The measure would unwind much of the financial structure put in place in the wake of the financial crisis. One of the biggest pieces of legislation enacted during the two terms of President Barack Obama, Dodd-Frank was designed to prevent the type of practices that led to the 2008 financial crisis and the recession it caused. Republicans have long complained that the law stifled the economy because it put too large a regulatory burden on business.

GOP Leaders on Flood Insurance Bill See Bipartisan Measure
Lawmakers working to beat Sept. 30 reauthorization deadline

Both Democrats and Republicans cited concern about hurting low-income homeowners in legislation that would reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program, but they also agreed that the program, with a current debt of $24.6 billion, needs to be on sounder financial ground.

Lawmakers are working to beat the expiration of the current authorization on Sept. 30. Without new authorization in place, housing markets in coastal and flood-prone areas could be disrupted.

Dodd-Frank Repeal Set Up for House Passage
Rules Committee allows only five amendments

A massive bill to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial law and allow better-capitalized banks to opt out of much of government regulation is heading to the House floor for a final vote on passage that is expected Thursday.

Over Democratic objections, the House Rules Committee on Tuesday allowed only five amendments that appeared to be uncontroversial plus a manager’s amendment to be considered, and it declined to allow a hearing for a proposal to reinstate the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act.

Dodd-Frank Repeal Bill is Target of Contentious Amendments
Republicans likely to support a few of them on the floor

As Rep. Jeb Hensarling’s Dodd-Frank repeal bill heads to the House floor this week, it will be the target of controversial amendments, including a couple that some Republicans are likely to support.

By late Monday, 16 amendments had been filed on the bill, which is scheduled for the House Rules Committee Tuesday evening.

Warren Calls Mnuchin’s Glass-Steagall Views ‘Bizarre’
Treasury secretary says separating banks from investment banks would be ‘big mistake’

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s assertion that the administration doesn’t support separating commercial banking from investment banking, as was the case under the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, almost left Sen. Elizabeth Warren speechless Thursday.