U.S. House, Senate Democrats push for alternative financial bill

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 03, 2015 4:05 PM

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives teamed up with their counterparts in the Senate on Wednesday to promote a banking regulatory relief bill they say is better than a broader version pushed by Republicans.

House Financial Services Ranking Member Maxine Waters announced at a news conference that all of the Democrats on her panel support a bill unveiled last month by Senate Banking Ranking Member Sherrod Brown, and that it had been formally introduced in the House.

Brown, who also spoke at the news conference, has been at odds with Senate Banking Chairman Richard Shelby over efforts to enact legislation to provide regulatory relief for small community banks and credit unions.

Although there is broad agreement on the need to dial back some of the rules for small institutions, Democrats say Shelby's bill goes too far and contains many provisions that water down Wall Street reform.

Last month, Shelby's broader regulatory relief bill cleared the committee without any support from Democrats.

Among some of the controversial measures in the Republican proposal is a measure that would reduce the number of banks deemed systemically important, a tag that carries greater oversight by the Federal Reserve.

Republicans want to raise the threshold to $500 billion in assets from the current $50 billion, but Democrats say that is far too high.

Other measures include loosening certain mortgage restrictions, reforming the structure of the Fed, and making several governance changes at the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a panel of regulators that polices emerging market threats.

Brown and North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a more moderate Democrat on the panel, said on Wednesday that Republicans agree with the measures in their alternative plan. They added Congress should press ahead with this bill first and tackle the tougher issues in separate legislation.

Brown said Shelby is not truly representing the interests of small banks "because our bill is passable" and will "not be vetoed."

Whether agreement over some of the thorny issues can ever be reached remains to be seen, even among fellow Democrats.

Brown, for instance, said he agrees the $50 billion threshold is too low and should be raised, although he is unsure of the appropriate number. Waters, however, said she is not in favor of raising it at all.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch. Editing by Andre Grenon)