House votes to ease regulation of banks, sending bill to Trump

The House on Tuesday passed a bill to loosen federal regulations on the banking sector, securing an election-year legislative accomplishment that is likely to be touted by members of both parties.

The 258-159 House vote sends the bill to President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE, who has pledged to sign it.

The bill was opposed by only one Republican, while 158 Democrats voted against it.

“We’ve been losing a community bank or credit union every other day in America, and with it the hopes and dreams of millions,” said Rep. Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingHas Congress lost the ability or the will to pass a unanimous bipartisan small business bill? Maxine Waters is the Wall Street sheriff the people deserve Ex-GOP congressman heads to investment bank MORE (R-Texas), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. “But today, that changes. Help is on the way.”

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The legislation represents the first significant overhaul of the banking rules passed by a Democratic Congress in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

While the legislation falls well short of Trump’s campaign pledge to “dismantle” Dodd-Frank, it also includes significant changes to the law that have long been sought by U.S. banks and credit unions.

The measure, which had been held up in the House for more than two months after passing the Senate in March, will free dozens of regional banks from stricter Federal Reserve oversight and scores more from lending and data reporting rules.

The bill’s passage is a big win for several vulnerable Senate Democrats running for reelection in states that Trump won in 2016.

Democratic Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa MORE (N.D.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterRed-state Democrats worry impeachment may spin out of control Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group Senate Democrats hesitant to go all-in on impeachment probe MORE (Mont.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyWatchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (Ind.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by USAA — Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies Trump pushed for her ouster GOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe Fallout from Kavanaugh confirmation felt in Washington one year later MORE (W.Va.) were all original co-sponsors of the legislation. They will now be able to tout passage of the measure as an example of how they are able to work across party lines.

Yet the centrists have also drawn the wrath of liberal lawmakers and activists, who have denounced the bill as a giveaway to banks that undermines the stability of the financial system.

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Democratic debate starts with immediate question on Trump impeachment White House, Pentagon, Giuliani reject House subpoenas MORE (D-Calif.) and House Financial Services Committee ranking Democrat Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Video depicting Trump killing media, critics draws backlash Backlash erupts at video depicting Trump killing media, critics Cindy McCain condemns video of fake Trump shooting political opponents, late husband MORE (Calif.) urged their party colleagues to oppose the bill in a Monday letter.  

“The American people paid a very high price for the weak oversight and discriminatory lending practices that culminated in the 2008 financial crisis,” Pelosi and Waters wrote. “We must not allow the GOP Congress to drag us back to the same lack of oversight that ignited the Great Recession.”

The rollback bill does far less than House Republicans had first hoped to pass. Hensarling pushed for a more sweeping overhaul, but that bill had little chance of surviving a liberal filibuster in the Senate.

The final compromise will leave most of Dodd-Frank in place for the foreseeable future, while still providing benefits for all but some of the largest U.S. banks.

The measure will exempt dozens of regional banks from tighter regulation by raising the threshold for closer Fed oversight from $50 billion to $250 billion in assets. That frees several major regional banks, including M&T, Citizens, SunTrust, BB&T, Fifth Third and BMO Financial Corp., from some of Dodd-Frank’s strictest requirements.

Banks below the new $250 billion threshold will no longer be automatically subject to yearly Federal Reserve stress tests or higher capital requirements meant to ensure large firms are able to weather severe financial crises.

Those banks below the threshold will also be exempted from submitting a “living will” for Fed approval — a plan that outlines how a bank’s assets could be liquidated upon the firm’s failure without causing a widespread meltdown.

The Fed will still have the power to apply those enhanced prudential standards to banks below the threshold that they deem risky enough to warrant closer oversight.

For smaller firms, the bill exempts banks that extend 500 or fewer mortgages a year from reporting some home loan data to federal regulators under anti-discrimination laws. The bill also broadens the definition of qualified mortgages.

Other aspects of the legislation meant to bolster community banks and credit unions include loosening appraisal requirements for certain mortgage loans and exempting firms with less than $10 billion in assets from the Volcker Rule. Named after former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, the rule bans banks from making risky trades with their own assets.

The bill also leaves several of the most controversial aspects of Dodd-Frank intact, including the polarizing Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and liquidation process under which the government would take over and dismantle a large failing bank.

House Republicans initially said the lack of action on those issues meant the bill didn’t go far enough to earn their support. But moderate Senate Democrats who spearheaded the compromise pledged to abandon the legislation if the lower chamber amended it.

The day after the bill passed the Senate, Hensarling announced that Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate MORE (R-Wis.) had promised to block it unless the upper chamber agreed to negotiations.

Hensarling, the architect of the House’s unsuccessful efforts to repeal and replace Dodd-Frank, had sought to include bills from his committee that received almost unanimous bipartisan backing from the chamber.

The chairman, a close ally of Ryan, eased his demands in late April. Hensarling said he would give the Senate bill his blessing if its sponsors in the Senate agreed to vote on a package of House bills meant to expand capital markers access for businesses.

Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthy10 top Republicans who continue to deny the undeniable Furious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Five ways Trump's Syria decision spells trouble MORE (R-Calif.) announced soon after that they would hold a vote on the Senate bill before Memorial Day after Senate GOP leaders vowed to do the same for the legislation from Hensarling’s committee.

It’s unclear which House bills will be taken up by the Senate, how they will appear on the floor and whether the measures have a chance of reaching Trump’s desk.

The House bills from Hensarling aren’t expected to pass the Senate on their own, but GOP leaders have privately floated attaching them to must-pass legislation.