House Republicans advanced a bill Thursday that would significantly rewrite President Obama's post-crisis banking rules, and have broad implications for almost every aspect of the financial system.
After two lengthy days of debate drawn out by Democratic stalling tactics, the House Financial Services met a third time Thursday morning to pass the Financial CHOICE Act. The panel sent the bill to the House in a partisan 34-26 vote.
The centerpiece of the legislation, written by the committee's conservative chairman, Jeb Hensarling of Texas, would allow banks to opt out of many of the rules set up by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law if they maintain a high level of capital.
Republicans pitched the legislation as a free-market alternative to the current system of financial regulation. Rather than a multi-layer patchwork of rules and mechanisms for preventing panics and bailouts, they argue, high levels of capital and market discipline will prevent crises.
As constituted, the legislative package appears to have little chance in the Senate, where Republicans face the obstacle of a Democratic filibuster.
Hensarling has expressed interest in seeing what his Senate Republican counterpart, Mike Crapo of Idaho, might be able to advance. Another possibility would be for the Senate to take up individual components of the larger legislation to send them to President Trump's desk.
First, however, the bill must pass the House. One major question is whether it does so while including a provision that divides banks versus retailers, merchants, and restaurants: A cap on payment card transaction fees, known as the Durbin Amendment, established by Dodd-Frank. Lobbyists defending the cap expressed confidence that they have the votes in the House to stop it.
The prospect of any of the bill's many provisions aimed at reforming bank rules, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or other parts of Dodd-Frank drew strong opposition from Democrats, whose rhetoric against the measure turned heated at the hearing's outset.
"The bill is rotten to the core and incredibly divisive," said Maxine Waters of California, the top Democrat on the committee. "It's also dead on arrival in the Senate, and has no chance of becoming law."
Both parties tried to claim that they were siding with the public against the big banks, while Democrats described the bill as a giveaway to Wall Street.
"The committee has passed a bill that would give Wall Street and assorted predatory lenders a free hand to abuse consumers, and investors, and would increase the likelihood of another financial crisis," said Lisa Donner, head of Americans for Financial Reform, an outside group that backs tighter bank rules.
Republicans, however, noted that some provisions of the bill do not have support from big banks. Those include the high minimum capital requirement as well as reforms to the Federal Reserve. Businesses and individuals, they argued, would benefit from being released from regulations, through greater economic growth.
"With the Financial CHOICE Act, the era of big bank bailouts and 'too big to fail' will be over," Hensarling said in a statement on the vote. "There will be bankruptcy for failed banks, not bailouts. And banks that qualify for much-needed regulatory relief will be so well-capitalized that they pose no threat to taxpayers or the economy."
"The little guy always loses with big government," quipped Sean Duffy, a Wisconsin Republican.