House Passes Major Overhaul of Dodd-Frank Financial Regulations

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas). image via flickr

The House on Thursday passed a major overhaul of the financial regulatory regime that largely rewrites the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act by a mostly party-line vote of 233 to 186.

No Democrats voted for the measure, while just one Republican voted against it — Walter Jones of North Carolina.

The House also adopted a handful of amendments to the measure.

The bill, H.R. 10, is a nearly 600-page wishlist for congressional Republicans who want to repeal Dodd-Frank. It would curb the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s enforcement authority, scrap the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s bank resolution practice, and give banks the ability to opt out of certain regulations if they hold sufficient capital.

House Republican leaders contend that the measure, aka the Financial CHOICE Act, will take taxpayers off the hook for major bank failures and prevent abuse of authority at the CFPB. Additionally, GOP lawmakers have argued that major banks don’t want the CHOICE Act because of the economic advantages they’ve enjoyed since Dodd-Frank’s enactment.

At a Thursday afternoon press conference, Democrats countered this narrative by asserting that the rhetoric does not match the policy.

“The talking points sound great — until you read the legislation,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (Mich.), the second-ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. “And what you see is that, at its face, it’s an anti-consumer piece of legislation. It’s intended to go back in time to the point where the banks were in charge and the consumer was on their own.”

The measure does not contain a repeal of Dodd-Frank’s limits on debit card swipe fees, a provision removed after it became clear that it put the entire bill at risk of failing to garner enough votes. Speaking to reporters Thursday at a breakfast event hosted by The Heritage Foundation, Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling said the removal of the repeal does not mean that the swipe fee issue is a settled policy matter.

“I don’t have the votes to overturn it today. It doesn’t mean that I might not revisit the issue at a later time, but it’s not today,” the Texas Republican said. “I would say for the moment, the matter has certainly been tabled.”

Hensarling also noted that in years-long fights over policy issues like congressional earmarks and the Export-Import Bank, he has repeatedly raised opposition to the entire House.

“I haven’t changed my mind on the issue, just like I haven’t changed my mind on the issue of the corporate welfare and cronyism of the Export-Import Bank,” Hensarling said. “And I might add that I was one of the leaders in the fight against congressional earmarks, and I think I lost that battle five, maybe six times before I finally won it.”

The CHOICE Act is unlikely to pass the Senate in its current form — a fact acknowledged by both Hensarling and Democratic leaders.

And despite talk about bipartisan engagement on some Dodd-Frank issues like the CFPB’s governance structure, Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), the committee’s ranking Democrat, told reporters Thursday that rank-and-file Democrats are less likely to be on board with changes when they learn more about what’s being proposed.

“Don’t forget that many of the issues that we’re dealing with are very complicated issues, and that most of our members are focused on the committees where they work,” Waters said. “If you’re over in Health and Human Services, or whatever you’re doing, you really don’t know the intricacies of what’s happening in Financial Services. And sometimes it takes a while for us to really unveil and give transparency to what is going on.”