A markup of a Republican financial reform bill quickly ran off the rails Tuesday when a Democrat called the legislation a middle finger to the public.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York called the Republican bill a "591-page middle finger to consumers, investors, regulators and markets," upsetting the Republican members of the House Financial Services Commitee trying to approve the bill and send it to the House floor.
Maloney's remarks were just one example of the heated rhetoric that ensued after committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling kicked off the hearing, which he warned could last late into the night.
Maloney also called the measure in question, the Financial Choice Act, "immoral" and "disturbing." Rep. Maxine Waters of California, the top Democrat on the panel, described it as "one of the worst bills I've seen." Another Democrat compared Republicans to Benedict Arnold.
The Choice Act would replace large parts of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law signed by former President Barack Obama to increase oversight of financial markets. The centerpiece of the sweeping legislative package would be to allow banks to opt out of many of the new rules if they maintained high levels of capital.
Many provisions of the bill, advertised as a measure to boost lending and growth, have support from the banking industry. Democrats have argued that it would undo the rules meant to prevent another financial crisis.
Responding to the Democrats' opening rhetoric, Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga of Michigan turned directly to the cameras in the committee room to warn the public that they were witnessing hyperbole on "Barnum and Bailey kind of levels."
"What is the real middle finger to the American people is the lack of a recovery that we have had because of Dodd-Frank," Huizenga said.
In a sign of the contentious atmosphere at the markup, Democrats sought to have Huizenga reprimanded for addressing the public, rather than directing his remarks to the chairman of the committee. The chairman, however, said that his fellow Republican hadn't broken any rules.