Given the Republicans’ nearly-united opposition thus far to enacting strong financial reform legislation, their 11th-hour protest smacks of a political stunt, according to a top aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The Senate approved its version of financial reform last Thursday, but lawmakers on Capitol Hill now have to reconcile it with a somewhat different version of financial reform passed in the House late last year to create a final bill that could be sent to President Obama to sign into law.
If ultimately approved, these new financial regulations would be the most sweeping overhaul of the rules that govern banking and Wall Street since the Great Depression, and Obama is eager to sign such legislation into law. Obama and other supporters of the bill hope to curtail risky behavior by banks and offer consumers greater protections under the law.
Among other provisions, financial reform would create a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which would be a federal agency devoted to protecting Americans from unfair and abusive financial products and services. Wall Street executives have been strenuously opposed to the new regulations, and have worked to defeat them at every turn.
Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the House GOP leader, last week wrote to Pelosi to demand an open, bipartisan House-Senate conference to craft a final financial regulation bill.
“This subject is too important and affects too much of our economy to be written in its final stages by a select few Democrats and lobbyists behind closed doors. I believe the American public is demanding –- and deserves -– the opportunity to understand what is in –- and not in -– the laws we enact,” Boehner writes in the letter. “In short, we need to ensure that the process going forward does not turn our mutual interest in regulating Wall Street into a bill with unintended consequences, root causes left unaddressed, or the federal government’s unwanted hand reaching into Main Street.”
Boehner says that he wants the House-Senate negotiations over the language for a final bill to be broadcast live on television and the Internet.
“I support bringing sunshine to the legislative process. As [House Financial Services Committee] Chairman [Barney] Frank said, we should have members of the House and Senate, Majority and Minority sitting in a public forum with C-SPAN coverage. And consistent with the new House initiative of live streaming video of House floor proceedings, we believe the conference debate should include live webcasting so even more Americans can engage in the debate over this crucial legislation’s final form. I stand ready to help with the selection of conferees and to do our part in this process,” the letter concludes.
But Boehner’s interest in being part of an open reform process runs counter to the House GOP record, in which every Republican member voted against reform when the House approved it in December on a vote of 223-202, says Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami.
Although Boehner says that he worries of lobbyist influence in the legislative process, it has been Republicans who have worked with lobbyists to try to kill financial reform, Elshami says. The Senate GOP was called out by Democrats for meeting with Wall Street lobbyists just weeks ago in an attempt to derail the legislation.
“The Congressional Republicans’ record to date in support of Wall Street over Main Street is clear,” Elshami says. “After meeting with industry lobbyists to kill the bill, every single House Republican voted against the legislation.
“Democratic leaders have long been committed to an open conference that will result in strong Wall Street reform, and we hope that Republicans, who have opposed reform from the start, will work with us to protect America’s middle class and stand up to Big Bank and corporate special interests,” he adds.
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.