House leadership has supported small banks from the start

House leadership has supported small banks from the start
© Greg Nash

Following the Senate’s bipartisan passage of community banking legislation, attention has shifted to how the House of Representatives will respond.

While supporters of the bill are calling for immediate passage in the House to preserve its delicate bipartisan support, the lower chamber is loath to simply advance the Senate-passed measure.

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However, the debate over whether the House should follow the Senate’s lead ignores one important fact — the House took the lead in the first place.

 

The Senate is getting a lot of attention for its legislation reforming Dodd-Frank Act policies affecting community banks and credit unions, and rightfully so. The legislation was a rare show of bipartisan unity for which Main Street financial institutions are thankful.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoNew push to open banks to marijuana industry Private insurance plays a critical part in home mortgage ecosystem On The Money: Lawmakers race to pass border deal | Trump rips 'stingy' Democrats, but says shutdown would be 'terrible' | Battle over contractor back pay | Banking panel kicks off data security talks MORE (R-Idaho) worked with moderate Democrats to craft the measure, which passed by an overwhelming 67-31 vote with the support of 17 Senate Democrats.

But the Senate didn’t create and pass its legislation in a vacuum. The bill’s DNA is in the majority-rules House, which for years has passed a series of financial regulatory reforms that have stalled in the upper chamber.

A part of the bill exempting low-volume community banks from expanded Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reporting requirements passed the House within months of its introduction last summer by Rep. Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerElise Stefanik seeks to tackle GOP’s women ‘crisis’ ahead of 2020 GOP maps out early 2020 strategy to retake House Steve King faces new storm over remarks about white supremacy MORE (R-Minn.).

A provision ensuring that the mortgage loans that community banks hold on their books meet federal mortgage standards? The House has passed it twice since it was first introduced by Rep. Andy BarrGarland (Andy) Hale BarrSchumer urging ex-congressional candidate Amy McGrath to run against McConnell House Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 Poll shows 25 percent view McConnell favorably, lowest among leaders in survey MORE (R-Ky.) back in 2013.

Proposals to ease the impact of international capital rules on local institutions have advanced in the House since regulators introduced the guidelines nearly six years ago.

In fact, more than three-quarters of the Senate bill’s provisions have advanced in the House since the 115th Congress convened last year. Many had never even been introduced in the Senate before the Crapo bill was brought to the chamber floor.

The debate over whether House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingThe next two years of federal housing policy could be positive under Mark Calabria Why Ocasio-Cortez should make flood insurance reform a priority Exiting lawmakers jockey for K Street perch MORE (R-Texas) should try to put his mark on the Senate bill is misguided. He already has.

Having marshaled financial reforms through the House since taking over the banking panel in 2013, Hensarling has been a leader on regulatory relief for local financial institutions. He and others in the House have been instrumental in developing the very substance of the Senate bill that has attracted such strong bipartisan support.

The result is legislation that offers common-sense reforms to Wall Street rules that sweep in Main Street institutions. Providing relief to community banks overburdened by "one-size-fits-all" regulations will overwhelmingly benefit small businesses and local communities.

At a time of deep partisan divisions, Republicans and many Democrats have found common ground — something for which they can be proud. Sending these reforms on to the president’s desk would produce a quick and significant victory for members of both parties and both legislative chambers.

Congress is a bicameral legislature with distinct rules, traditions and personalities in the House and Senate. But the political power play over banking reform shouldn’t obscure the fact that both chambers have already made significant contributions.

House Republicans don’t need to make last-minute additions to the banking bill to trumpet their accomplishments. The fact that it finally passed the Senate after years of House leadership is an accomplishment itself.

Camden R. Fine is president and CEO of the Independent Community Bankers of America, the primary trade group for small U.S. banks.