Banking panel showcases 2020 Dems

Banking panel showcases 2020 Dems

The Senate Banking Committee may play a key role in the next presidential campaign, with several 2020 Dems poised to use the panel as a venue for showcasing both their policies and personalities.

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownFive challenges facing new consumer bureau chief Dem senator: Trump 'seems more rattled than usual' GOP rep: If Mueller had found collusion, ‘investigation would have wrapped up very quickly’ MORE (Ohio), the panel's top Democrat, announced this week he would consider a White House run. That announcement came just a few weeks after Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBiden, Sanders lead field in Iowa poll The 2020 Democratic nomination will run through the heart of black America Gillibrand says she's worried about top options in Dem 2020 poll being white men MORE (D-Mass.) said she would “take a hard look” at a presidential bid.

And two vacant spots on the powerful Banking panel — with its lucrative connections to Wall Street — may be filled by other potential 2020 candidates. 

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“I think the populism and YouTube moments get ramped up a bit anytime a member of Congress runs for president,” said Ian Katz, an analyst at Capital Alpha Partners. “They are very aware that anything they say could go viral. Warren and Brown are already very skilled at that.” 

Highly coveted spots on the panel give members influence over and access to the financial services industry, a political foil and fundraising ally to each party. Democrats and Republicans on the committee often have greater access to Wall Street campaign cash.

It’s not clear yet who will land on the Banking panel when Democratic leaders hash out assignments before the next Congress convenes in January, but several industry sources say they expect potential 2020 hopeful Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerCory Booker addresses speculation about his sexuality: 'I'm heterosexual' Biden, Sanders lead field in Iowa poll Gillibrand says she's worried about top options in Dem 2020 poll being white men MORE (D-N.J.) to be among the top contenders.

Booker, whose office did not respond to a request for comment, has both parochial and political reasons to seek a Banking panel seat. Thousands of Wall Street bankers and traders live in New Jersey, and insurance powerhouse Prudential Financial is based in Booker’s hometown of Newark.

His proximity to New York has also yielded millions of dollars in fundraising from members of the financial industry. Liberals have slammed Booker for accepting roughly $4.4 million during his 2014 Senate campaign from financial sector employees, more than any other candidate running that year.

A seat on the Banking panel could allow Booker to bolster his progressive credentials and align himself with potential rivals Brown and Warren, two fierce Wall Street critics.

The Banking panel could also allow Democratic contenders to elevate their policy platforms amid a growing field of likely candidates. Several potential 2020 candidates, including Booker, Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandGillibrand says she's worried about top options in Dem 2020 poll being white men Biden team discussed 2020 run with O'Rourke as VP: report Senate Dems urge Trump to continue nuclear arms control negotiations after treaty suspension MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisCory Booker addresses speculation about his sexuality: 'I'm heterosexual' Biden, Sanders lead field in Iowa poll The 2020 Democratic nomination will run through the heart of black America MORE (Calif.), have introduced ambitious, progressive economic proposals seen as previews of the presidential platforms.

A spokeswoman for Gillibrand declined to comment on whether the senator would seek a position on the Banking panel, and Harris aides did not respond to questions from The Hill.

The panel has been a central battleground for the Democratic imposition of Dodd-Frank post-crisis banking rules and subsequent Republican efforts to loosen those regulations.

“Now is not the time to begin dismantling our post-crisis protections,” Brown said at a Thursday hearing. “When Washington policymakers suffer from collective amnesia, working families, savers, and taxpayers end up paying the price."

Banking Committee Democrats have been largely united in defense of the Dodd-Frank Act’s core tenants, but a bipartisan proposal to loosen parts of the sweeping 2010 law plunged the minority into a bloody intraparty battle earlier this year.

Progressives like Brown and Warren diverged last spring from moderates like Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTrump risks clash with Congress over Chinese executive The Year Ahead: Tech braces for new scrutiny from Washington Senate Intel leaders ask judge not to jail former aide amid leak investigation MORE (Va.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampHatch warns Senate 'in crisis' in farewell speech Dem senators Heitkamp, Donnelly urge bipartisanship in farewell speeches House passes bipartisan bill aimed at reversing rising maternal mortality rates MORE (N.D.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate votes to overturn IRS guidance limiting donor disclosure Senate confirms Trump's pick to be deputy Treasury secretary O’Rourke is fireball, but not all Dems are sold MORE (Mont.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyHatch warns Senate 'in crisis' in farewell speech Dem senators Heitkamp, Donnelly urge bipartisanship in farewell speeches Schumer gets ready to go on the offensive MORE (Ind.), the leading Democratic sponsors of the Dodd-Frank rollback bill.

While progressives were unable to stop the bipartisan loosening of Dodd-Frank, they’re poised to add to their ranks in 2019 as Heitkamp and Donnelly depart the Senate. Both lost their reelection bids earlier this month, creating two potential vacancies for rising Democratic stars.

But a national spotlight on the Banking Committee over the next two years could hurt the panel's efforts to tackle some of the financial sector's trickiest and politically sensitive issues.

“There are plenty of members of the Senate Banking Committee that are serious policymakers that just want to get the job done for their constituents,” said a former senior Senate staffer now advocating for financial firms on K Street. “But the committee offers this platform that will be too much of a draw for the politically minded members.”

The Democratic takeover of the House and defeat of several party moderates makes major legislation unlikely to move in 2019. Both parties are eager to reform the troubled federal housing finance system, but have tried in vain for almost a decade to reach common ground.

“I don't see any significant legislation in financial services making it through both chambers,” said Katz.

He noted that Heitkamp and Donnelly’s defeats could scare off Democrats from reaching across the aisle. While Heitkamp and Donnelly both lost their bids in states that strongly supported President TrumpDonald John TrumpFamily says Trump travel ban preventing mother from seeing dying son Saudi Arabia rejects Senate position on Khashoggi killing Five things to know about the Trump inauguration investigation MORE in 2016, Tester narrowly survived his reelection campaign.

“The lesson other Dems could take from that is there isn't much to gain by cooperating with Republicans,” Katz said.

Banking Committee Chairman Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoSenators offer measure naming Saudi crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi slaying Banking panel showcases 2020 Dems On The Money: Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority | Grassley opts for Finance gavel, setting Graham up for Judiciary | Trump says China eager for trade deal | Facebook reeling after damning NYT report MORE (R-Idaho) and Brown often tout their strong personal relationship, though the duo are fiercely divided on policy. The dismal prognosis for bipartisan bills and constant specter of the presidential campaign could create an explosive dynamic on the panel.

“It depends a lot upon the makeup of the committee after the midterms,” said the former Senate aide, but "the Senate might be operating in a much more volatile and political fashion heading into 2019.”