Iowa’s three Republicans in the U.S. House joined almost all of their GOP colleagues today to approve a bill that would “devastate financial regulation.” The Financial Choice Act would “dismantle” many provisions in the 2010 banking reform law known as Dodd-Frank. It passed by 233 votes to 186 (roll call), with Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) among the 233 Republicans who voted yes. Just one Republican joined 185 House Democrats, including Iowa’s Dave Loebsack (IA-02), to oppose the bill.
House Speaker Paul Ryan is spinning this bill as a rescue of “Main Street America,” but its key beneficiaries would not be small banks, and its provisions could make millions of consumers and investors into sitting ducks for Wall Street abuses.
For a comprehensive case against the Choice Act, read the June 7 letter from Americans for Financial Reform to members of Congress. That organization is a nonpartisan and nonprofit coalition of more than 200 civil rights, consumer, labor, business, investor, faith-based, and civic and community groups. The letter explains how the Republican bill “would have a devastating effect on the ability of regulators to protect consumers and investors from Wall Street exploitation and the economy from financial risks created by too-big-to-fail megabanks. It would expose consumers, investors, and the public to greatly heightened risk of abuse in their regular dealings with the financial system, and our economy as a whole to a far greater risk of instability and crisis.”
Here are a few more concise stories about the legislation Blum, Young, and King just approved. Renae Merle reported for the Washington Post today,
Big banks, from Goldman Sachs to Bank of America, would face less scrutiny and other large financial institutions, such as insurance giant MetLife, could escape tougher rules all together under the legislation approved along party lines. […]
Democrats and progressive groups, who argue banks need more oversight, not less, are preparing to use the issue to animate supporters still angry that Wall Street banks have not paid a bigger price for the financial crisis. Many have expressed particular concern over a provision that would curtail the powers of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and reduce its independence by having its director report to the president.
In her story on some of the Choice Act’s most significant changes, Victoria Finkle reported for New York Times,
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a core creation of Dodd-Frank, would be significantly overhauled by the bill. The bureau would be restructured as an executive-branch agency with a single director who could be removed at will by the president. Right now, the director — currently Richard Cordray — can be removed only for cause.
The legislation would also strip the agency of its supervisory and examination authority. It would also remove the bureau’s authority to police “unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices.” Under the plan, the agency would lose its oversight of the payday loans market and arbitration agreements — two areas where it has sought reforms. The bureau would be renamed the Consumer Law Enforcement Agency.
More from Alan Rappeport’s New York Times story,
The Choice Act would exempt some financial institutions that meet capital and liquidity requirements from many of Dodd-Frank’s restrictions that limit risk taking. It would also replace Dodd-Frank’s method of dealing with large and failing financial institutions, known as the orderly liquidation authority — which critics say reinforces the idea that some banks are too big to fail — with a new bankruptcy code provision.
Gillian B. White provided more details in a piece for The Atlantic last month:
The Act would do away with Title IV of Dodd-Frank, which gives the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) the ability to designate financial organizations as systemically important and impose more rules and regulations on them. The Act would also call for the dissolution of FSOC, repeal the portion of the law responsible for the Volcker Rule (which a major bank just got caught breaking for the first time), and kill the fiduciary rule once and for all. The bill would allow big banks to skip out on a slew of oversight they’re subject to now if they agree to hold high levels of capital. It would fundamentally change the role and scope of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, removing its authority to act upon practices it deems “unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts,” and making it subject to Congressional oversight—which would leave it vulnerable to being completely defunded in the future.
Most people haven’t heard of the “fiduciary rule.” It sounds less like big, bad, government red tape when you learn it’s a Labor Department regulation that “requires financial planners to put the interest of their clients before their own.”
Republicans are unlikely to find 60 votes to get this bill through the Senate in its current form, but some who follow the issue closely believe pieces of the Choice Act could clear the upper chamber.
Blum, Young, and King should explain why they voted, among other things:
• for more potential bailouts of “too big to fail” financial institutions;
• against letting an agency police “unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices” in consumer lending;
• for repealing restrictions on subprime mortgages;
• against oversight for payday lending, which traps thousands of Iowans in cycles of debt;
• for making the country’s top consumer protection official beholden to the president;
• against forcing financial planners to put their clients first.
At this writing, I have not seen any public comment from the Iowans in Congress on today’s vote. I will update this post as needed.