House Hopes on Dodd-Frank Rollback Meet Senate Realities

House conservatives say they’ll work to get their own provisions in a final bill, even while some admit the Senate version is better than nothing.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
March 7, 2018, 8 p.m.

House conservatives are lamenting that the Senate’s Dodd-Frank rollback isn’t as ambitious as their chamber’s version, but there’s little appetite among Republicans to kill the progress they’ve made.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling are working on a manager’s amendment to the Senate bill that may add House-passed provisions to the measure. There are about 30 provisions approved in Hensarling’s committee on a bipartisan basis that House Republicans may want to tack on to the Senate bill before a final vote in the upper chamber.

The talks come after Tuesday’s Senate vote to begin consideration on its Dodd-Frank measure, with 16 Democrats joining a unanimous Republican caucus, setting up a vote for final passage soon. The vote gives Crapo additional runway to grease the bill through both chambers, a task helped by the sense among some House conservatives that while the Senate version may fall short for them, it’s better than no Dodd-Frank rollback.

“There’s not strong opposition because obviously I think you can make the case that it’s better than the status quo,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said. “But how much better is still a question that needs to be answered.”

Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker said that while the House hasn’t seen the final version of the Senate bill, and members would prefer the House’s version, “something is better than nothing on this specific issue.”

On Tuesday, Crapo said he hoped to produce an amendment to the Senate bill within the next few days, and although House conservatives appear to be open to a deal, negotiators continue to push for more House-passed provisions.

“We passed a number of bipartisan measures in the House, and we expect those to be reflected in the final bill that ends up on the president’s desk,” Hensarling told Bloomberg TV Wednesday.

That could include a provision easing restrictions on certain angel investors funding start-ups, and another provision requiring that federal regulators “tailor” rules to the size and complexity of banks, Hensarling said.

Even with an amendment to the current Senate bill, a conference committee remains on the table. It all depends on how “thin” the final Senate version is, Walker said. Still, he remains pragmatic about what the GOP can move in the upper chamber.

“Our first instinct is to go to conference and to try to tighten it up the best we can, but as we’ve seen with the Senate budget proposal last year, there are some times that you better set sail with it,” he said.

The Senate bill would alter, but not gut, the Dodd-Frank law, cutting regulations for community and midsized banks.

It would require federal regulators to change rules for banks holding less than $10 billion in assets, raising the ratio of capital to assets at which they are considered well capitalized, making it easier for more small institutions to be exempt from certain financial rules.

Though the bill doesn’t have the dramatic changes to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found in the House version passed last year, the Senate measure would loosen rules on mortgage loans and consumer-credit reporting agencies. Consumers would get a free credit-freeze option and yearlong fraud alerts.

But the most consequential provision would raise the threshold at which banks are considered systemically important financial institutions, otherwise known as “too big to fail,” from $50 billion to $250 billion in assets. That would exempt many midsize, regional banks from fiscal stress tests and other rules mandated for the largest, most crucial institutions.

The bill has driven a wedge among the Senate Democratic caucus, with finance-friendly and red-state lawmakers backing the bill while many progressives and 2020 presidential hopefuls line up against it. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, has led the change against the bill despite some Democratic members on his panel bucking leadership and voting for it.

Brown and others argue that the measure goes beyond providing regulatory rollbacks for small banks, and is a giveaway to both large foreign banks with U.S. subsidiaries and major domestic institutions as well.

To keep Democrats supporting the measure on board, Crapo will need to tread carefully in dealmaking with his House counterparts. Some Senate Democrats have expressed resistance to any major changes in the bill.

“What we’ve got right now is pretty tightly negotiated,” Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana said Monday. “Keeping my personal feelings out of it, I think we run a chance of dumping the bill if we start making any kind of changes that are pretty significant.”

Daniel Newhauser contributed to this article.
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