House chairman eases demands on Dodd-Frank rollback

House chairman eases demands on Dodd-Frank rollback
© Greg Nash

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingLawmakers battle over future of Ex-Im Bank House passes Ex-Im Bank reboot bill opposed by White House, McConnell Has Congress lost the ability or the will to pass a unanimous bipartisan small business bill? MORE (R-Texas) on Thursday said he could drop his demand to amend a bipartisan Senate bill to loosen strict financial rules if the upper chamber agrees to take up measures from his panel.

Hensarling said Thursday that he’d be willing to end his blockade of a Senate bill to rollback the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act if senators agree to consider legislation produced by his committee in a separate package.

His comments are a small step away from an unequivocal pledge he made last month to not take up the Senate’s bill unless its sponsors agreed to include House bills that passed with almost unanimous support.

“I’m far more wedded to substance than form, so as I’ve told other people, I’m more than happy to attend multiple signing ceremonies,” Hensarling said at an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Hensarling’s comments showed a potential way to resolve a battle between the House and Senate over the best way to roll back Dodd-Frank.

House Republicans have refused to pass the Senate bill unless its sponsors agreed to include dozens of broadly supported House measures meant to expand access to capital for small businesses.

Hensarling said in March that the Senate bill “is staying on the Speaker's desk unless and until they're willing to negotiate with the House,” citing a personal pledge from House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanNo time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' MORE (R-Wis.).

There has been widespread opposition in the Senate to reopening their bipartisan deal after two weeks of heated debate.

Senate Democrats behind the bipartisan deal have vowed to opposed changes over fears of breaking the fragile coalition supporting their bill. They’re also wary of another nasty battle over the bill with their liberal colleagues opposed to rolling back Dodd-Frank.

Senate Republican leadership is also wary of devoting more floor time to the issue while the chamber races to confirm dozens of Trump nominees and finish must-pass legislation before the November midterm elections.

Hensarling said Thursday that the Senate bill could still use improvements, calling it a “wonderful community bank regulatory relief bill” that “leaves roughly 80 percent of banking assets untouched.” He and his Republican colleagues have questioned why the Senate feared adding bills that cleared the House with almost unanimous support to a bill they insist should be non-controversial.

But Hensarling ceded that "the fate of the House bills rest with eight self-styled moderate Senate Democrats,” referring to the Senate bill’s original co-sponsors. He said talks are ongoing and that no senator has expressed opposition to what the House measures would do, but object over including them in their package.

“If they support these measures, than give us a pathway to get these measures into law," Hensarling said. “They’ve been unwilling to do that.”

Hensarling’s comments are in line with options laid out by Rep. Patrick McHenryPatrick Timothy McHenryPowell, Yellen say they underestimated inflation and supply snarls GOP beginning to jockey for post-election leadership slots Consumer bureau chief bashes FTC and pledges focus on tech giants, big firms MORE (R-N.C.), the chief deputy Republican whip, in comments to reporters on Tuesday.

"We can amend it and send it back, or we can send a separate package over to the Senate to see if they'll take floor time to deal with that,” said McHenry, vice chairman of the Financial Services panel.

"The question is the option [Hensarling] wants to take, and so much of that is a consultation between the Speaker and the majority leader in the Senate on whether or not they'll allocate floor time to a second package or allocate floor time to an amended package. It's the complicated nature of the legislative process."

Senate Democrats backing the bipartisan deal have been skeptical of House efforts to negotiate.

"The House needs to move [the Senate bill] now,” Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate dodges initial December crisis with last-minute deal Liberty University professor charged with alleged sexual battery and abduction of student Five Senate Democrats reportedly opposed to Biden banking nominee MORE (D-Va.) said Tuesday. “If there is other legislation in the future that can be reviewed that makes sense around capital formation or other things, fine, but the clock is ticking."

Powerful bank and credit union lobbying groups have teamed up on an intense campaign to pressure the House into clearing the Senate bill without delay.

The American Bankers Association (ABA), the top trade group for U.S. banks, made pushing the House to pass the Senate bill the main focus of their government relations summit this week. Thousands of ABA-affiliated bankers flooded the Capitol to lobby in support of the Senate bill, and the group’s top  leaders urged the House to move quickly.

"I cannot tell you how difficult it is to get anything through the Senate, let alone with 67 votes," said James Ballentine, ABA executive vice president of congressional relations. "The appetite to get some more done is not there in the Senate at this time."