Financial reform deal clears House, Iowans split on party lines

The House of Representatives approved what’s likely to be the final version of financial reform yesterday, on a mostly party-line vote of 237 to 192 (roll call). Iowa Democrats Bruce Braley (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Leonard Boswell (IA-03) voted for the compromise that emerged from a House-Senate conference committee. They had also voted for the original House version last December. Republicans Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05) voted against the new regulations on the financial sector. The Senate will take up this bill after senators return from the July 4 recess on July 12.

I haven’t blogged much about financial reform because so many important provisions didn’t make it into the original House bill and/or were ditched during the Senate amendment process. Yesterday Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin blasted the “unholy alliance between Washington and Wall Street”:

I cosponsored a number of critical amendments during Senate consideration of the bill including a Cantwell-McCain amendment to restore Glass-Steagall safeguards, Senator Dorgan’s amendment that addressed the problem of “too big to fail” financial institutions, and another “too big to fail” reform offered by Senators Brown and Kaufman that proposed strict limits on the size of those institutions. Each of those amendments would have improved the bill significantly, and each of them either failed or was blocked from even getting a vote.

After that, it wasn’t a close call for me. It would be a huge mistake to pass a bill that purports to re-regulate the financial industry but is simply too weak to protect people from the recklessness of Wall Street. […]

Since the Senate bill passed, I have had a number of conversations with key members of the administration, Senate leadership and the conference committee that drafted the final bill. Unfortunately, not once has anyone suggested in those conversations the possibility of strengthening the bill to address my concerns and win my support. People want my vote, but they want it for a bill that, while including some positive provisions, has Wall Street’s fingerprints all over it.

In fact, reports indicate that the administration and conference leaders have gone to significant lengths to avoid making the bill stronger. Rather than discussing with me ways to strengthen the bill, for example, they chose to eliminate a levy that was to be imposed on the largest banks and hedge funds in order to obtain the vote of members who prefer a weaker bill. Nothing could be more revealing of the true position of those who are crafting this legislation. They had a choice between pursuing a weaker bill or a stronger one.

While we’re on the subject of those conference talks, which catered to a handful of New England Republicans, here’s a textbook case of Republicans negotiating in bad faith:

This week, Democrats sought to confirm the support of Sen. Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts, who threatened to vote against the bill if it contained $19 billion in new fees on large banks and hedge funds. House and Senate conferees reconvened to remove that provision, but on Wednesday Senator Brown didn’t commit his vote. He said he plans to evaluate the bill over Congress’s week-long July 4 recess.

During the past few weeks David Waldman wrote an excellent series of posts on the conference process and mechanics. Political junkies should take a look, because this won’t be the last important bill hammered out by a conference committee.

As with health insurance reform, the Wall Street reform bill contains a bunch of good provisions. Chris Bowers lists many of them here. Representatives Braley, Loebsack and Boswell also highlighted steps forward in statements I have posted after the jump. On balance, it’s better for this bill to pass than for nothing to pass. But like health insurance reform, the Wall Street reform bill isn’t going to solve the big systemic problems it was supposed to solve. It’s disappointing that large Democratic majorities in Congress couldn’t produce a better bill than this one, and it’s yet another sign we need filibuster reform in the Senate.

Another parallel between health insurance reform and financial reform is that Republican talking points against it are dishonest.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

Continue Reading...

Iowans split on party lines over Wall Street reforms

On Friday the House of Representatives approved The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act by 232 to 202. All three Iowa Democrats (Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack and Leonard Boswell) voted for the bill. Tom Latham and Steve King joined their Republican colleagues, who unanimously voted no. A press release from Braley’s office summarized key provisions:

–      Creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) to protect Americans from unfair financial products and services.

–       Creation of an oversight council to identify and regulate large financial firms whose collapse would place the entire financial system at risk.

–       Establishes a process for dismantling institutions like AIG or Lehman Brothers that protects taxpayers and ends bailouts.

–       Enables regulators to prohibit excessive executive compensations.

The “unfair” financial products to be regulated by the Consumer Financial Protection Agency include mortgages, credit cards and “payday” lenders. I would particularly like to see a crackdown on payday lending. Those high-interest loans have been shown to trap low-income borrowers in a cycle of debt.

The bill also includes some regulation of the derivatives market for the first time, but it sounds as if those provisions didn’t go far enough:

Consumer advocates cheered the survival of the consumer protection agency but said the overall legislation fell short, especially in the regulation of complex investment instruments known as derivatives.

The legislation aims to prevent manipulation and bring transparency to the $600 trillion global derivatives market. But an amendment by New York Democrat Scott Murphy, adopted 304-124 Thursday night, created an exception for nonfinancial companies that use derivatives as a hedge against market fluctuations rather than as a speculative investment. The amendment exempted businesses considered too small to be a risk to the financial system.

A Democratic effort to make more companies subject to derivatives regulations and to end abusive-trading rules failed.

When the Obama administration first proposed a package of regulations, it called for regulations of derivatives without any exceptions. But a potent lobbying coalition that included Boeing Co., Caterpillar Inc., General Electric Co., Coca-Cola and other big companies persuaded lawmakers to dilute the restrictions.

“It’s a weakness in the bill and a win for Wall Street,” said Barbara Roper, director of investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America. “Hedge funds and others that are not bona fide hedgers of commercial risk will slip through this language.”

Although I’m disappointed that Congressional Democrats didn’t pass a stronger bill, I am disgusted by House Republican leaders who “met with more than 100 lobbyists” last week in a desperate attempt to derail any regulation of these practices.

Representative Boswell worked on the derivatives regulations, and a statement from his office on December 11 expressed pride in “the work that the Agriculture Committee did to bring greater oversight and transparency to the over-the-counter derivatives market while balancing the interests of Iowa’s farmers and business owners who utilize these markets to hedge operations costs and lock-in commodity prices for responsible business planning.”

After the jump I’ve posted part of this statement, which includes written remarks Boswell submitted regarding the derivatives regulations.

Continue Reading...
View More...