Financial Services Industry Takes Its Anti-Overhaul Campaign to the Senate

Posted December 15, 2009 at 5:19pm

A week after House Republican leaders met with more than 100 lobbyists to try to fight back against the financial regulatory reform bill, K Streeters are teeing up their campaign in the Senate to push back against the overhaul legislation there.

“The first quarter of next year is probably going to be a very intense period of activity in the Senate,— the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Tom Quaadman said.

The chamber aggressively lobbied against several provisions in the House financial services bill, including the proposed consumer protection agency that will oversee the marketing of credit cards, mortgages and car loans.

The reignited lobbying effort in the Senate comes as Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) have been holding closed-door negotiations on several of the most controversial provisions, including the new consumer protection agency.

“We’re not there yet. There’s a lot of work to be done, but we’re making good progress,— Shelby said, adding that staff will work over the holidays to continue negotiations on a bipartisan bill that could be introduced in January. Dodd has tasked members of the Banking panel to work in bipartisan teams to try to find consensus on specific provisions.

“Maybe we’ll mark up in February,— he said.

Shelby signaled his intent to strike a deal with Dodd, but he cautioned that his support is not certain yet.

“We’re not signing on to just something,— Shelby said. “We’ll sign on to meaningful legislation that helps our financial system in the 21st century.—

While Shelby is publicly signaling progress, financial services lobbyists characterized the ongoing negotiations as “tenuous— at best.

President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats have been trying to quash the lobbying blitz before it starts in the Senate.

Obama called out House Republicans for meeting with lobbyists to kill the bill in his weekly address Saturday. He met with 12 financial services CEOs on Monday, saying he expected those executives to call off their lobbyists and trade associations.

“All of the executives discussed their support for the concept of financial reform,— White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a press briefing Monday. “The president said clearly that he and the administration were hearing something markedly different from their lobbyists and from organizations that they funded to lobby on their behalf … and he suggested that they find ways to be more vocal about the support they discussed on financial reform.—

But despite the assurances by the bankers that they support financial reform, the intense lobbying campaign in the House was just setting the stage for the Senate, according to several banking lobbyists.

“We realized the numbers to some degree were daunting in the House, but those are efforts we wanted to undertake to prepare the groundwork in the Senate,— Quaadman said.

Lobbyists said attempts to kill the bill by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and others had real effects. House Republican leaders huddled with financial services lobbyists last week, chastising them for not coming out more aggressively against the bill.

“Boehner called on the lobbying community to use their grass-roots strength in Blue Dog districts where Republicans normally do well,— said Sam Geduldig, a financial services lobbyist at Clark, Lytle & Geduldig.

Geduldig said the proof that the late-in-the-game counteroffensive was successful was in the narrow margin it passed the House, 223-202.

Twenty-seven “Democrats thought it was safer to vote with Boehner than [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and [Financial Services Chairman Barney] Frank,— he said.

Jessica Brady contributed to this report.