Midterms to shake up top posts on House finance panel

Midterms to shake up top posts on House finance panel
© Greg Nash

The midterms are poised to have a significant impact on how the House oversees the financial sector, regardless of which side wins in November. 

A Democratic takeover of the House would propel Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersSupreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records Trump tweet mocking Greta Thunberg sparks backlash Melania Trump's 'Be Best' hashtag trends after president goes after Greta Thunberg MORE (D-Calif.), the House Financial Services Committee's ranking member and a fierce critic of President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE, into a powerful perch with subpoena power.

Her ascension could pose new political challenges for the nation’s biggest banks and force the White House to contend with congressional probes into the president’s personal finances during the 2020 election season.

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Waters has said that she’s eager to work with both parties to find “sensible solutions to benefit hardworking Americans and strengthen our nation’s economy.” But the panel is also expected to launch several investigations into the personal finances of Trump, his family and his business if there’s a blue wave on Election Day.

Led by Waters, Financial Services Democrats have called on 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) to subpoena documents from Deutsche Bank and the Treasury Department that could shed light on potential financial connections between Trump and Russia.

Republicans have quashed those requests, but Waters would be empowered to demand documents if a Democratic wave gives her control of the committee. 

“If there is information that is going to be unveiled about what has been going on in the White House or Donald Trump or the Treasury, it will come out,” Waters said Sunday on MSNBC, vowing to pursue the matter “in a responsible way.”

“I am not looking to make up stories or to create ways by which to trap anybody,” she said. “I will just do my work as a member of Congress and as a chairman.”

Republicans, meanwhile, are attempting to defend their House majority, and GOP lawmakers on the Financial Services Committee are jockeying for position to succeed Hensarling, who’s retiring from Congress at the end of this term.

Rep. Patrick McHenryPatrick Timothy McHenryMnuchin expresses concerns about proposed taxes on financial trades Fed's top regulator takes heat from both parties NC rep explores Tillis primary challenge MORE (R-N.C.), the panel's vice chairman and a deputy whip, appears to have a clear path to the top Republican spot on the committee if he passes on a chance to climb higher up the leadership ladder. If he decides to further pursue the leadership route, three of the panel's senior Republicans are expected to compete for the top spot.

Hensarling's potential Republican heirs share similar views on financial regulation, and each would play a leading role GOP efforts to loosen post-crisis rules. 

The Financial Services Committee takes the lead on the House’s efforts to oversee and legislate changes to the vast network of U.S banks, lenders, insurers, investors and housing. Members of the panel enjoy influence over critical legislation and easy access to lucrative donations from powerful financial firms.

Hensarling has led the committee since 2013 and would have been required to surrender the gavel, or the top GOP seat, under House Republican term-limit rules. He announced last year that he would retire at the end of the 115th Congress after representing parts of Dallas since 2003.

Hensarling spent the first four years of his chairmanship laying the groundwork to overhaul the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law. His sweeping rewrite was opposed by Democrats and rejected by the Senate last year, but he helped Congress pass a more moderate, bipartisan rollback in May.

Committee Republicans and industry lobbyists say McHenry is the top contender to build on the GOP’s small but significant tweaks to Dodd-Frank. They say McHenry would likely claim the gavel with little or no competition, citing his experience and seniority.

But some GOP lawmakers expect McHenry to climb the House leadership ladder as Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyGOP lawmakers jockey for positions as managers On The Money: Trump, China announce 'Phase One' trade deal | Supreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records | House panel schedules hearing, vote on new NAFTA deal House panel to hold hearing, vote on Trump's new NAFTA proposal MORE (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseGOP lawmakers jockey for positions as managers Fox's Chris Wallace calls out Trump for the 'most sustained assault on freedom of the press' in US history McCarthy: I don't think there's a need to whip the impeachment vote MORE (R-La.) vie to replace retiring Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay House Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea MORE (R-Wis.).

McHenry said in a statement that he’s focused on “advancing the House Republican agenda and ensuring we maintain a conservative House majority this November. Any decisions about my plans for next Congress will be made after the election.”

Rep. Blaine LuetkemeyerWilliam (Blaine) Blaine LuetkemeyerFederal regulators clear BB&T-SunTrust merger, creating sixth-largest US bank A new standard by Financial Accounting Standards Board should be reconsidered Senate bill seeks to bring freedom back to banking MORE (R-Mo.) said he would run to succeed Hensarling if McHenry doesn’t, calling the vice chairman a “good friend” and “proven leader.” GOP Reps. Bill Huizenga (Mich.) and Sean DuffySean DuffyJuan Williams: Trump has nothing left but smears On The Money: Trump seeks to shift spotlight from impeachment to economy | Appropriators agree to Dec. 20 funding deadline | New study says tariffs threaten 1.5M jobs Ex-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR MORE (Wis.) have also expressed interest in the Financial Services chairmanship.

Huizenga told the The Hill in an interview that he's begun meeting with GOP leaders charged with filling committee posts and has gotten a "very positive response." But he added that he would drop his bid if McHenry seeks the gavel.

“I think Patrick is probably the only person who frankly clears the field," said Huizenga, praising McHenry's work filling in for Scalise last year when the House majority whip recovered from gunshot wounds.

Luetkemeyer, Huizenga and Duffy hold Financial Services subcommittee chairmanships and all three have raised hefty sums for the House Republican campaign arm, two helpful pitches to the GOP leaders who help decide committee assignments.

Luetkemeyer appears to be the early front-runner, with one bank lobbyist telling the The Hill that the Missouri Republican has “the most support” if McHenry is focused instead on a leadership position. Luetkemeyer has been in the House since 2009 — two years longer than Huizenga and Duffy — and worked in the banking and insurance industries before launching his political career.

"I want to continue to empower our people and our businesses to take advantage of the economic freedom that's provided to them by what we have in place,” Luetkemeyer told The Hill in an interview. “Jeb's done a good job of breaking those barriers down, and we want to continue to do that.”

Hensarling has not weighed in on the race to replace him, and the three likely GOP successors are expected to continue their efforts to ease financial regulations and rein in federal regulators who they say are smothering banks and lenders.

Trump’s election and the Republican control of Congress has helped banks score the biggest victories against regulations in decades. Industry lobbyists are therefore worried that those gains could be reversed if Democrats take control of the House.

Waters has vowed to reinforce Dodd-Frank and protect the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, while pursuing bills to bolster the supply of affordable housing, if she takes control of the panel. She also has proposed a bill to dismantle major banks that are consistently penalized for abusing their customers, citing Wells Fargo as a prime culprit.