House GOP feels heat on financial reform

House Republicans who voted en masse against the financial reform bill in December may have a tougher time holding ranks after four Senate Republicans supported the measure last week.

Democrats have amped up the pressure on the GOP, sensing a winning political issue in an election-year environment that has turned sharply against Wall Street.

Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), a congressman running for the Senate, said he liked the Senate version of the financial reform plan better than the House legislation and that he would consider voting for it when it emerges from the conference negotiations between the two chambers.

“We’re watching it very closely,” Castle said. He cited a number of provisions that could make the difference in his vote, including the language on regulation of derivatives and corporate governance.

When the House first passed the financial reform legislation on a 223-202 vote in December, it drew relatively little attention in a political debate dominated by healthcare. The dynamic is different now, and Democrats have credited increased public focus on the Wall Street reform bill with helping to secure its passage in the Senate.

Castle acknowledged that the increasingly populist undercurrent, with anger directed toward Wall Street, could be a factor for some members.

Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for House GOP whip Eric CantorEric Ivan Cantor'Release the memo' — let's stop pretending that Democrats are the defenders of the FBI Raúl Labrador, a model for Hispanic politicians reaching higher Eric Cantor: Moore ‘deserves to lose’ MORE (Va.), said it was “hard to say” whether the caucus would remain unified against the bill before the final details are known.

But lawmakers and aides said that while a few House Republicans may cross over, they still expected a vast majority of the caucus to vote against the legislation, which the GOP leadership continues to oppose.

“This is just the latest Democrat overreach in which populist rhetoric is used against businesspeople small and large while the long-term consequences for economic growth and job creation are ignored by an out-of-touch Washington,” Dayspring said.

Another GOP lawmaker in a competitive Senate race, Rep. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkHigh stakes as Trump heads to Hill Five things to watch for at Trump-Senate GOP meeting Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns MORE (R-Ill.), indicated the legislation had not changed dramatically enough in the Senate to earn his vote.

“While the Senate bill was an improvement over the House version, I am concerned the legislation does not go far enough to rein in ‘too big to fail’ banks,” Kirk said in a statement to The Hill. “Taxpayers will continue to be on the hook for future bailouts without those reforms.”

GOP lawmakers said they had kept a close eye on the Senate debate to see how many Republicans would back the bill. Before the vote on Thursday, a House GOP lawmaker close to the financial-reform vote count predicted that House Republicans would likely remain opposed to the final bill if only a few Senate Republicans crossed party lines.

“If it is just the usual suspects, two or three, I think when it comes back here we will stay true to our form,” and vote against the bill, the member said.

Four Senate Republicans ultimately supported the measure, with Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Cybersecurity: Tillerson proposes new cyber bureau at State | Senate bill would clarify cross-border data rules | Uber exec says 'no justification' for covering up breach Overnight Finance: Senators near two-year budget deal | Trump would 'love to see a shutdown' over immigration | Dow closes nearly 600 points higher after volatile day | Trade deficit at highest level since 2008 | Pawlenty leaving Wall Street group Grassley to Sessions: Policy for employees does not comply with the law MORE (Iowa) surprising some officials by joining Sens. Olympia Snowe (Maine), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration GOP senators turning Trump immigration framework into legislation Longtime Clinton confidant blames Comey for 2016 loss MORE (Maine) and Scott Brown (Mass.), who were all expected yes votes.

Democrats said they would put pressure on GOP House members in tight races this fall, including Reps. Joseph Cao (La.), Jim GerlachJames (Jim) GerlachFormer reps: Increase support to Ukraine to deter Russia With Trump and GOP Congress, job creators can go on offense Big names free to lobby in 2016 MORE (Pa.), Charlie Dent (Pa.) and Dan Lungren (Calif.). Cao said through a spokesman that he had no comment on the Senate financial reform bill, while Gerlach, Dent and Lungren did not return requests for comment.

Democratic leadership aides said that while they welcome GOP support, they stopped expecting it long ago. Party leaders have cast Republican opposition to the reform bill as evidence that the GOP is beholden to corporate interests.

“When the House passed our Wall Street reform legislation, Republicans stood in lockstep against it, choosing to side with Wall Street over their constituents on Main Street,” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said after the Senate passed its bill last week. “I hope they reconsider their opposition to a bill that is needed to help protect our nation from the type of financial meltdown that led to the deepest recession since the Great Depression.”

Republicans, in turn, have said the legislation is another “Washington takeover” and criticized Democrats for refusing to overhaul the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which the GOP has blamed for causing the housing market crash that led to the financial crisis. With a formal conference committee about to be appointed, House GOP Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbying World Freedom Caucus wants budget reforms attached to debt limit increase Trey Gowdy announces retirement from Congress MORE (Ohio) called on Democrats to hold negotiations in public and televise them on C-SPAN. Democratic leaders have said the conference would be “open,” though the actual negotiations are expected to occur behind closed doors.

Democrats will have their own vote-counting to do when the bill comes back to the House. Twenty-seven Democrats opposed the financial reform bill in December, mostly members of the Blue Dog Coalition. One leadership aide said more Democrats could come on board for the final version. “There’s potential for a stronger vote,” the aide said.

Molly K. Hooper contributed to this story.