End of omnibus jeopardizes funding for Wall Street regulation

Increased funding for financial regulators implementing the Wall Street reform bill has been jeopardized by the Senate's scrapping of an omnibus spending measure.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Thursday night that he lacked the support needed to advance a $1.1 trillion omnibus bill, and instead would focus on crafting a short-term funding measure to keep the government running beyond Saturday.

That decision could put the budgetary fate of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) more in the hands of Republicans, who opposed the Wall Street overhaul that called for increased financial regulation. Regulators at the SEC and CFTC were counting on the additional funds to hire workers to implement the reform measure.

Gary Gensler, chairman of the CFTC, told members of a subcommittee of the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday that his agency needed a substantial boost in funds to handle its new Dodd-Frank obligations.

"The CFTC’s current funding is far less than what is required to properly fulfill our significantly expanded role," he said. "The CFTC requires additional resources to enhance its surveillance program, prevent market disruptions ... and implement the Dodd-Frank Act."


While the omnibus would have offered more funding to those agencies throughout fiscal 2011, now Congress will likely have to revisit its funding early next year — after Republicans take over the House. 

The omnibus that has now been set aside included substantial boosts to the budgets of the SEC and CFTC, both of which are entrenched in the massive task of writing rules implementing the new law. The CFTC would have received a 69 percent boost to its budget, while the SEC would have gotten an 18 percent raise. 

The boosts exceeded the budget requests the agencies made earlier this year. The CFTC asked for $261 million in its most recent budget request, up from last year's budget of $168.8 million. The SEC asked for a bump to $1.258 billion in fiscal 2011, up from 2010's budget of $1.118 billion.

The House's version of a continuing resolution to fund the government, released earlier in December, would keep funding for fiscal 2011 at fiscal 2010 levels, but shifts more funds to the CFTC and SEC. While the increases are not as substantial as in the omnibus, both agencies still would receive boosts.

But in the Senate, the only continuing resolution on the table is one proposed by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). His bill, just one page long, would simply continue current funding levels until Feb. 18.