This week: Congress takes up banking reform as gun debate stalls
© Greg Nash

The Senate is turning to banking reform this week as a push on gun control appears stalled with no clear path forward.

The financial legislation will bring Congress another step closer to passing its first rewrite of the Dodd-Frank banking reform bill, which was enacted nearly eight years ago.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate approves .3 trillion spending bill, sending to Trump GOP senator threatened to hold up bill over provision to honor late political rival: report Paul: Shutting down government not my goal MORE (R-Ky.) teed up the legislation late last week and debate on the bill in the coming days is expected to eat up the chamber’s work week.


The bill will provide smaller institutions and community banks relief from regulations and rules established under Dodd-Frank, which they argue made them less competitive. 

The bill raises the threshold at which a bank is deemed big enough to warrant tighter oversight from $50 billion to $250 billion, exempting dozens of regional banks from stringent rules.  

Banks with less than $250 billion that aren't otherwise targeted by the Federal Reserve would no longer be subject to yearly stress tests or higher capital requirements. Those banks will also be freed from the requirement to submit a yearly plan on how they would break apart in the event of a failure without triggering a credit crisis.

Under McConnell’s floor maneuvering, an initial procedural vote on the bill is expected on Tuesday, where the legislation will need 60 votes to overcome the hurdle.

The GOP leader has long pointed to the legislation as one of the ways the Senate can focus on bipartisan legislation after Republicans spent most of 2017 pursuing priorities such as a tax overhaul, repeal of ObamaCare and changing the Senate’s rules on Supreme Court nominations.

Though Republicans are united behind the banking reform bill, spearheaded by GOP Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoPower struggle threatens to sink bank legislation Overnight Regulation: FDA rule to limit nicotine in cigarettes moves forward | Court tosses Obama financial adviser rule | House GOP threatens to hold up Senate Dodd-Frank rollback Overnight Finance: House threatens to freeze Senate Dodd-Frank rollback | New Russia sanctions | Trump vs. Trudeau on trade | Court tosses Obama financial adviser rule MORE (Idaho), Democrats are divided.

The legislation is expected to ultimately pass because it is supported by a cadre of moderate Democrats, while more progressive members argue it goes too far to deregulate larger financial institutions.

“The Senate – with the support of some Democrats – is set to start debate on a bill to roll back regulations on the same big banks we bailed out a few years ago. If we lose the final vote next week, we’ll be paving the way for the next big crash,” Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren battles Carson: Housing discrimination 'the scandal that should get you fired' Overnight Regulation: Omnibus includes deal on tip-pooling rule | Groups sue over rules for organic livestock | AT&T, DOJ make opening arguments in merger trial Warren presses Mulvaney, Azar on tip pooling MORE (D-Mass.) said in a tweet Friday.

Warren, considered a potential 2020 contender, rose through the Democratic Party’s ranks by focusing on financial oversight.

Lisa Donner, the executive director of Americans for Financial Reform, noted late last year that the bill would lift the more stringent oversight requirements for 25 of the 38 largest banks.

But the bill has the support of 12 Democrats, guaranteeing it will be able to pass if, as expected, Republicans remain united.

Five of the 12 Democratic cosponsors are up for reelection in states won by President TrumpDonald John TrumpPoll: Both parties need to do more on drug prices Senate approves .3 trillion spending bill, sending to Trump White House: Trump will delay steel tariffs for EU, six countries MORE in 2016, while Democratic Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.) — who isn’t facing reelection until 2020 — is from a deep-red state.

Gun control legislation

Despite calls for action from Trump, as well as top Republicans, Congress' debate on gun control in recent weeks quickly stalemated.

Last week’s televised White House meeting between Trump and a bipartisan group of lawmakers provided no clear path forward, instead appearing to frustrate conservatives and embolden Democrats.

“I would call that a brainstorming session. It wasn’t legislating 101,” Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate approves .3 trillion spending bill, sending to Trump GOP senator threatened to hold up bill over provision to honor late political rival: report Overnight Health Care: House passes .3T omnibus | Bill boosts funds for NIH, opioid treatment | Senators spar over ObamaCare fix | 'Right to Try' bill heads to the Senate MORE (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said when asked if the freewheeling White House meeting made it easier or harder to get a deal.

Lawmakers have introduced or are working on a flurry of proposals following the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, where 17 people were killed. But none, so far, have the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate or majority support in the House.

McConnell, noting the chamber was moving to the banking bill, appeared to leave the door open to returning to the gun control debate if a way forward emerged.

Senate Republicans are lining up behind the Fix NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) Act as the bill most likely to pass the Senate and the chamber’s natural starting point for any debate.

“We'd love to do that at some point,” McConnell told reporters late last week.

But Democrats, while supportive of the bill, believe it is too narrow.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerAmtrak to rename Rochester station after Louise Slaughter Conscience protections for health-care providers should be standard Pension committee must deliver on retirement promise MORE (D-N.Y.) outlined his caucus’ three-part plan: Requiring background checks for firearms sold over the internet and at gun shows; a debate on the Senate floor on the assault weapons ban; and a bill allowing law enforcement or family members to get a court order to temporarily prevent someone deemed dangerous from getting a gun.

The last idea, known as “red flag” legislation, appears to have bipartisan support. Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump replaces McMaster with Bolton as national security adviser Orlando March for Our Lives protesters to march to Rubio's downtown office, Pulse nightclub Lawmakers eye crackdown on China’s Confucius Institutes MORE (R-Fla.) mentioned it as part of his school safety-focused package last week. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenators introduced revised version of election cyber bill GOP senators push tougher sentencing for synthetic opioid Dems aim to turn ObamaCare hikes into election weapon MORE (R-S.C.) are expected to introduce similar legislation this week.

House Republicans, meanwhile, have largely focused on school safety following the shooting. And Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse Republicans grumble about the 'worst process ever' Winners and losers from the .3T omnibus Collins: McConnell has 'kept his commitment' on ObamaCare fix MORE (R-Wis.) suggested they would not vote on the assault weapons ban favored by some Democrats.

Energy and environment

The House is expected to vote on a pair of energy and environment bills this week.

The House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet on Monday night on the two proposals: the Blocking Regulatory Interference from Closing Kilns (BRICK) Act and the Satisfying Energy Needs and Saving the Environment (SENSE) Act.

BRICK would exempt certain power plants that burn coal refuse from parts of a major 2012 air pollution rule.

Meanwhile, the SENSE Act would change Environmental Protection Agency regulations to benefit specific industries.

The House is expected to vote on the bills on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.


The House is expected to vote on the Comprehensive Regulatory Review Act on Tuesday.

The measure is aimed at eliminating outdated or unnecessary regulations. The bill would require an audit to be completed every seven years, instead of every 10, and expand the number of financial agencies the review requirements apply to.