Politics

House Republicans Vote to Strip Away Post-Financial Crisis Safeguards

Bill isn’t expected to be taken up in the Senate

Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling says that “all of the promises of Dodd-Frank were broken.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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.

“All of the promises of Dodd-Frank were broken,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the Texan who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and who authored the bill. “It promised us it would lift the economy, but we are stymied in the weakest and slowest recovery in the post-war era.”

The vote to repeal was more partisan than the House vote on the law in 2010. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina was the only Republican to vote against the bill Thursday and no Democrats voted for it. Three House Republicans voted for Dodd-Frank in 2010 and 19 Democrats voted against it.

Dodd-Frank provisions reached deep into U.S. business and financial life, setting up a new agency to monitor financial products, a multi-agency supervisory body to identify risks to the financial system, and tougher disclosure and other regulatory standards for financial institutions.

Republicans forget that Dodd-Frank was passed in response to a crisis that pushed the unemployment rate to 10 percent, spurred 11 million home foreclosures and caused the evaporation of $13 trillion in private wealth, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.

“Today House Republicans are pushing a dangerous Wall Street first bill that will drag us straight back into the days of the Great Recession,” the California Democrat said, calling the measure “dastardly” and “malicious.”

Harder for banks?

Republicans say Dodd-Frank provisions made it harder for banks to provide loans to business. They complain that small bankers in particular have been handicapped by the cost of complying with the many regulations that emerged from Dodd-Frank.

The House bill is rife with provisions that drew veto threats last year from Obama, including a repeal of the Labor Department’s so-called fiduciary rule and an overhaul of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency established by Dodd-Frank..

Democrats say it would end protections put in place after the 2008-9 financial crisis, intimidate regulators by removing their financial independence, and effectively kill a dozen bipartisan provisions by putting them in a bill that Senate Democrats are expected to block because of its objectionable provisions.

“I believe it will lead to the next financial crisis,” said Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, D-Mass., a member of the Financial Services Committee. “This is an awful bill. This is a real stinker.”

Provisions

The bill would repeal many key parts of Dodd-Frank:

  • The Volcker rule that bars federally insured commercial banks from trading with depositors money;
  • The mechanism, known as the Orderly Liquidation Authority, for winding down big, failed banks through a government fund and require bankruptcy proceedings instead;
  • The Labor Department’s fiduciary rule, a requirement that broker-dealers put clients’ interest ahead of their own when giving retirement advice;
  • The independence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, moving its funding into the appropriations process and giving the president the authority to fire the director at will;
  • The most stringent regulatory scrutiny for banks that choose to maintain $1 of equity capital for every $10 in assets.

The bill would also make changes to the financial regulatory structure that pre-dated Dodd-Frank. It would put the Federal Reserve’s bank supervisory function and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation into the appropriations process. And it would require an annual audit of the Fed.

The Congressional Budget Office said last month that Hensarling’s bill would deliver more than $24 billion in deficit reduction over 10 years, including $14.5 billion from the elimination of the Orderly Liquidation Authority. Most of the rest of the savings would come from cuts to the CFPB’s budget.

The House bill isn’t expected to be taken up in the Senate.

Sen. Michael D. Crapo, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, held a hearing Thursday on the importance of smaller, local banks. These community banks have been the targets of bipartisan, regulatory relief bills in recent years, such as a provision to lengthen the time between bank examinations by regulators.

The Idaho Republican promised more hearings “in the coming months” on regulatory reforms that would spur the economy with the “goal of ultimately passing a meaningful and bipartisan reform package.”

Among the specific changes he mentioned were measures to lessen paperwork and lift certain mortgage restrictions for community banks.

The House bill would likely have its greatest impact on the big banks. Dodd-Frank required banks with $50 billion or more in assets to adopt so-called living wills describing how they would be unwound if they failed, and subjecting them to enhanced, prudential regulation.

Smaller banks were exempted from Dodd-Frank’s main features, but stricter mortgage rules, compliance with the Volcker Rule, and what critics call a Dodd-Frank “trickle-down effect” are seen by Republicans and some Democrats as overly, and unnecessarily, burdensome on community banks.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wisc., told House members that “our community banks are in trouble. They are being crushed by the costly rules imposed on them by the Dodd-Frank Act.”

Smaller, local banks historically have lent heavily to small, local businesses. But rules requiring a more statistical approach to lending, as opposed to community banks’ strength of often actually knowing their borrowers, are blamed for community banks losing much of the small business lending market.

Republicans see economic harm because small businesses have created fewer jobs than in past recoveries.

But Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisc., said the Republican talk about the bill helping community banks “is not fooling anyone.”

“This legislation unleashes every bloodthirsty, greedy Wall Street super-predator back to the American people to feast on our misery like they did pre-Dodd-Frank,” she said. 

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