House passes sweeping bill to strip back financial rules

Greg Nash

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed sweeping legislation to strip and replace much of the financial regulations passed under former President Barack Obama after the 2008 financial crisis.

The House passed the Financial Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs (CHOICE) Act, 233-186, along party lines. The bill is not expected to pass the Senate. 

Sponsored by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), the CHOICE Act is the most ambitious Republican effort to roll back the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, passed in 2010. Republicans have long targeted Dodd-Frank, saying it has created a crushing regulatory burden that suffocates small businesses and banks while empowering unaccountable bureaucrats.

“Dodd-Frank represents the greatest imposition on our business enterprises than all Obama-era regulations combined,” Hensarling said Thursday morning in a briefing with reporters. “In many respects, it was not a response to the financial crisis, but a grab bag of leftist ideas that were waiting on the shelf for quite some time.”

{mosads}Democrats have fiercely defended Dodd-Frank. They say the bill has held Wall Street accountable for the risky investment practices that caused the crisis and protected Americans from predatory lending and abusive financial firms.

“It’s shameful that Republicans have voted to do the bidding of Wall Street at the expense of Main Street and our economy,” said Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. “They are setting the stage for Wall Street to run amok and cause another financial crisis. I urge my colleagues in the Senate not to move on this deeply harmful bill.” 

The CHOICE Act would roll back much of the Dodd-Frank regulations long targeted by Republicans. It would allow banks that reach certain cash thresholds an off-ramp from Dodd-Frank, reduce the frequency of federal stress tests and restrain oversight powers of several federal agencies that the 2010 law expanded.

Hensarling’s bill would also eliminate orderly liquidation authority — the process through which the federal government takes over and dismantles a major bank before it collapses — and place strict limits on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The CHOICE Act would turn the CFPB, which Republicans consider abusive and unaccountable, into the Consumer Law Enforcement Agency. It would no longer control its own budget, its director would be appointed by the president, and it would lose its authority to crack down on “unfair, abusive and deceptive practices.”

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and GOP leaders touted the bill in the weeks before Thursday’s vote. Ryan, a longtime Hensarling ally who served with him on the House Budget Committee, on Wednesday called the CHOICE Act “the crown jewel” of the GOP deregulation agenda. 

“This legislation comes to the rescue of Main Street America,” Ryan said Wednesday. “The Financial CHOICE Act makes it possible for small businesses across this country to stop struggling and to start hiring.”

Democrats have universally opposed the CHOICE Act, claiming it’s a boon for Wall Street that puts American consumers at risk. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called it “a dangerous Wall Street-first bill that would drag us back to the days of the Great Recession.” 

The CHOICE Act is unlikely to pass the Senate, where the Republican majority is too slim to overcome a Democratic filibuster. Lawmakers on the Senate Banking Committee have floated a bipartisan measure to relieve regulations on smaller banks, which has received measured interest from House members. 

Trump administration officials have called on the House to pass the CHOICE Act, while urging the Senate to work on changes that could clear the chamber.

Hensarling said he’s also looking to pass some aspects of the bill through budget reconciliation, the budgetary maneuver Democrats used to pass ObamaCare and Republicans are using to repeal it.

While Hensarling said he’s discussed the bill with his Senate counterpart, Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), he declined to say what the upper chamber should do. 

“I’m certainly not going to advise Chairman Crapo on how to proceed from here,” Hensarling said. “The Senate is a very different animal than the House.”

Tags Barack Obama Mike Crapo Paul Ryan

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