Dems thwart changes to Wall Street reform law

House Democrats on Wednesday thwarted a package of legislation that would have made changes to the 2010 Wall Street reform law.

The measure — one of the first to be considered in the new Congress — was brought up under a fast-track procedure typically considered for noncontroversial legislation that requires a two-thirds majority to pass. But Democratic opposition led to its defeat, by a vote of 276-146.

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The package was comprised of 11 bills that were previously considered in the last Congress. It included provisions to delay for two years a portion of Dodd-Frank's so-called Volcker Rule, which prevents banks that make loans and deposits from engaging in speculative activity.

Other parts of the bill were less controversial, such as provisions to allow the Securities and Exchange Commission to establish a pilot program to allow certain companies to increase the minimum price variation at which securities can be quoted.

Democrats said the legislation shouldn't be rushed, especially given that the new Congress has only just begun.

"This is not an emergency. We have a new Congress. This bill should go through the regular order," said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a member of the House Financial Services Committee. "It is absolutely inappropriate for the suspension calendar."

Ellison noted that the package had hit the floor just 24 hours after House members had taken the oath of office. He argued that members consequently had minimal time to review the legislation.

"We just got started yesterday talking about the importance of regular order, and we're already violating those claims and promises," Ellison said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) heralded Democrats' ability to block the legislation. The result was reminiscent of a fight in December, when House Democrats nearly took down a government spending bill over opposition to provisions that changed the Dodd-Frank law. 

"Wall Street giveaways introduced in the dead of night are no way to govern," Pelosi said in a statement. "Democrats will continue to fight back against Republicans’ Wall Street wish list agenda."

Republicans, meanwhile, heralded the legislation as a way to limit what they view as unnecessary regulations for businesses.

"While these proposals aren't flashy, they represent bipartisan efforts to remove the burdensome weight of one-size-fits-all regulation that has sadly become the norm for Washington," said the measure's sponsor, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).

A spokesman for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the bill would be brought to the floor again and that it would only need a simple majority to pass.

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