GOP May Take Cue on TPP From Trump

By Thomas McKinless, Ellyn Ferguson

A spending bill that funds watchdog agencies overseeing Wall Street will offer lawmakers one of their last opportunities to undercut President Barack Obama’s signature financial overhaul before the November elections.

Financial interests are pushing for big changes, championed mostly by Republicans, to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the $21.7 billion House Financial Services draft appropriations bill . The debate will also give Democrats a chance to rail against big financial firms and reinforce a popular campaign trail refrain.

Partisan gridlock is likely to thwart any substantive changes to the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial law, but messaging amendments from both sides should grab the spotlight if the full House Appropriations Committee takes up the bill after the Memorial Day recess.

In addition to the CFPB, which was authorized by Dodd-Frank, financial industry lobbyists say they’re pushing for changes to insurance regulations as well as to the Financial Stability Oversight Council, which monitors the stability of the financial system.

“This particular bill is a magnet for Wall Street’s lobbyists and Wall Street’s allies,” said Dennis Kelleher, president and CEO of Better Markets and a proponent of Dodd-Frank.

[ On Fifth Anniversary, Dodd-Frank Financial Regulations Appear to Be Here to Stay ]

The draft bill approved by the House Appropriations Financial Services Subcommittee on Wednesday included a provision that would change the CFPB from a director-led agency to a bipartisan commission, as well as language that would make funding for the bureau subject to the annual appropriations process. Both measures largely pit supportive Republicans against Democrats.

Richard Hunt, president and CEO of the Consumer Bankers Association, said Democrats should find such changes palatable with the possibility of presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump winning the presidency.

CFPB Director Richard Cordray’s term expires in 2018, when the next president could install someone hostile to financial regulations, Hunt said.

“We have never called for the end of the CFPB; we have only called for a bipartisan commission,” said Hunt, a former aide to ex-Louisiana GOP Rep. Jim McCrery. “I bet a lot of Democrats change their minds after Trump wins.”

[ GOP Raises Heat on CFPB's Cordray ]

Still, Hunt said, making any changes to Dodd-Frank would be “much harder” because of the political rhetoric in the run-up to the elections.

Better Markets’ Kelleher opposes any revisions to the CFPB’s structure regardless of who occupies the White House next year. “Wall Street is trying to gut and neuter the CFPB with these changes,” he said.

Financial lobbyists said such proposals, especially the one that would convert the CFPB into a commission, should be taken seriously.

“I would hope it would offer an opportunity, particularly given the fact, as you look at the presidential race, there’s uncertainty,” said Brad Thaler, vice president of legislative affairs at the National Association of Federal Credit Unions.

[ Chances of Changing Dodd-Frank Appear to Rest With Handful of Moderate Democrats ]

Banking lobbyists say that getting any of the Dodd-Frank provisions included in the financial services bill would help make the argument for including the items in a year-end stopgap package to keep the government running past the elections.

“Appropriations bills are one of the few things, whether individually or rolled into a package, that’ll be passed this year,” Thaler noted.

The incendiary nature of the Dodd-Frank provisions has been one of the reasons the financial services spending bill hasn’t passed the full House since 2009. Dodd-Frank was enacted in 2010.

[ Consumer Bureau Gets a Leader, and Dodd-Frank Gets an Enforcer ]

Wall Street interests scored a change to a swaps provision in the financial law in the 2014 “cromnibus” spending package (PL 113-235 ), even as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was leading a public fight against it.

Wall Street and its regulators will face scrutiny beyond Capitol Hill this summer and fall as the government appeals a decision by a federal judge to remove America’s biggest insurance company, MetLife, from Dodd-Frank’s “too big to fail” list. In 2014, MetLife was designated a “systemically important financial institution” and the Federal Reserve began regulating it along with other big non-banks Prudential Financial, GE Capital and AIG. Briefs will begin to be filed in the case by mid-June and oral arguments could start in late October.

Since Dodd-Frank’s passage, the financial sector has spent just shy of $500 million annually on federal lobbying, according to congressional disclosures tabulated by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The sector's campaign donations have tilted consistently to Republicans since the 2010 cycle, the center’s data shows.

[ New Group for Lobbyists Moves to Fill Void ]

By contrast, in the 2008 cycle, the financial sector gave more in campaign cash to Democratic congressional candidates, according to the center.

“Wall Street made a conscious strategy to politicize financial reform and moved virtually all their money to Republicans, particularly those who are committed to killing financial reform,” Kelleher said. “Is financial reform going to be a campaign issue? You bet.”

Doug Sword contributed to this report .

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Senator Chuck Schumer wants phone companies to provide consumers with technology that would stop voice and text message robocalls to landlines and cell phones.

He plans to introduce a bill called the Repeated Objectionable Bothering of Consumers on Phone (ROBOCOP) Act, which also would require telephone companies to label and block fraudulent phone calls that try to hide the identity of the caller.

“Robocalls are one of the things that annoy Americans the most and the ROBOCOP Act will finally help put a rest to these dreaded calls that are interrupting family dinners — or worse, scamming people out [of] their hard-earned money,” the New York Democrat said in a statement .

It's already illegal for someone to mask their caller ID for fraudulent or harmful purposes. The Truth In Caller ID Act of 2009 was aimed at stopping caller ID spoofing, which makes the phone call appear to be from a bank, credit card company, or even a government agency, as a way to swindle consumers.

The ROBOCOP Act would help consumers from ever receiving those calls, according to Schumer's statement.

In April, similar legislation was introduced in the House by California Democrat Jackie Speier. It also includes language that would also make it illegal to hide the identity of a text message.

The House bill has been referred to the subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

Americans can already add their phone number to a national “Do Not Call” registry that is supposed to prevent these unwanted robocalls.

But that hasn't stopped the robocalls. In 2015, the Federal Trade Commission received almost 3.6 million complaints from people on the registry who'd been called.

The FTC is on pace to receive more than five million complaints in 2016.

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Carla D. Hayden is one step closer to becoming the first African-American and woman to head the Library of Congress.

The Senate Rules and Administration Committee approved Hayden's nomination by voice vote Thursday. Chairman Roy Blunt of Missouri said he expects her nomination to move to the floor this month.

"The nominee, in my opinion, will bring a wealth of experience to the position," Blunt said at the committee meeting.

[ Library of Congress Nominee Impresses Senators ]

Hayden, 63, currently heads the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, a position she has held since 1993.

"She is just an incredible person to lead the Library of Congress," Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin said Thursday. Cardin and his fellow Maryland Democrat, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, had encouraged President Barack Obama to consider Hayden for the post.

"We're very proud of what she's done in Baltimore," Cardin said. "A person with incredible credentials, credibility and energy, and I look forward to her leadership."

Obama nominated Hayden in February to lead the 216-year-old institution. Her approval Thursday cleared a backlog of civilian nominations before the committee.

Obama said in a statement at the time that he and first lady Michelle Obama knew Hayden from her time at the Chicago Public Library, where she worked from 1973 to 1981, and again from 1991 to 1993.

[ Report Details 'Management Weaknesses' in Library of Congress ]

She would be the first African American and the first woman in the position, and the first to have a limited term .

Hayden would fill the vacancy left by former Librarian James H. Billington, who retired in January after a 29-year tenure in which he came under fire for a host of technology failures.

At a hearing in April, Hayden impressed senators with her experience. Colleagues commended her work during riots that consumed Baltimore last year after the death of Freddie Gray when she kept the Enoch library open — and stayed there for several days.

[ New Library of Congress CIO Looks to Right the Ship ]

At that hearing, members questioned her stance on a variety of issues plaguing the library, including how to make its voluminous materials available digitally and whether the copyright division ought to be spun out of the agency.

She said one of her top priorities would be helping to make the library more modern and accessible.

Hayden said she wanted to make the library accessible to everyone, particularly those in rural parts of the country. She also touted traveling exhibits as a way for the library’s collection to reach those far from Washington.

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report. Contact Rahman at remarahman@cqrollcall.com and follow her on Twitter at @remawriter .

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The German Parliament on Thursday approved a measure recognizing the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a "genocide," drawing attention to the failures of similar efforts in the United States.

Turkey, the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, condemned the vote and responded by recalling its ambassador from Germany. The expected backlash from Ankara comes just when the European Union is looking to the country to help stem the flow of migrants into Europe.

[ Guest Chaplain Asserts Armenian Genocide in Opening Prayer ]

Multiple bills attempting to recognize the massacre as a genocide have stalled in Congress, including one that was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee last year. President Barack Obama promised during his first campaign to "recognize the Armenian genocide," but has so far failed to honor that promise.

[ 100 Years Later, Time to Recognize the Armenian Genocide | Commentary ]

Western historians have long used the term "genocide" to describe the killings of as many as 1.5 million Armenians during World War I. More than 20 other countries, including France, Russia and Austria, have passed similar resolutions and Pope Francis drew the wrath of the Turkish government last year when he referred to the killings as the first genocide of the 20th century.

Turkey, a U.S. partner and NATO ally, denies that there was a systematic campaign to kill Armenians and says the death toll has been inflated.

Contact Akin at stephanieakin@rollcall.com and follow her on Twitter at @stephanieakin .

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Senate Democrats unveiled a sweeping plan Thursday that would overhaul the nation’s campaign finance and lobbying laws, and provide election-year messaging for its sponsors.

Sens. Tom Udall of New Mexico, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island said the measure would repeal the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizen’s United decision, which helped pave the way for big-spending super PACs. It would also permanently ban lobbying by former members of Congress — a prohibition previously championed by Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet , who is up for re-election this year.

“This reform package will shift power away from the special interests, dark money groups and lobbyists with outsized, undue influence, and put it back into the hands of the people we came here to represent,” Bennet said.

[ Campaign Finance Reform PAC Wants to Be a Player in 2016 ]

Republican leaders are expected to ignore the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has often said the public finds the campaign finance debate about as exciting as static cling. But Sen. Charles E. Schumer , the New Yorker poised to be the Senate’s top Democrat next year, said this time, McConnell will be in for a rude awakening.

“Make no mistake about it: This will be a huge issue in the presidential and in the senatorial and House campaigns,” Schumer said. “And those members who refuse to support proposals like this are going to pay a very significant price. They have not in the past, but this year the electorate is fed up.”

[ Candidates Decry Political Money, but Change Is Unlikely ]

Campaign finance overhaul groups said they supported the effort, which also would require organizations to disclose corporate money to tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups.

Senate Democrats, in introducing the bill, are responding “to deep public concern that our elections no longer for regular people,” said Adam Smith, communications director for Every Voice , an electoral-reform group.

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American Farm Bureau Backs Voluntary GMO Labeling

By Thomas McKinless, Ellyn Ferguson