WASHINGTON — Rep. Spencer Bachus came out swinging Wednesday against speculation he may not become chairman of the House Financial Services Committee if Republicans win control of the House in the upcoming mid-term elections.
The typically soft-spoken Alabama Republican told reporters that "there's no question" he will be elected chairman by the Republican Steering Committee.
"I've already talked to them," Bachus said after a speech at a conference hosted by the National Association of Federal Credit Unions. "There's no question from anybody in leadership. When everyone's present, they're saying, 'You are going to be the next chairman.'"
Bachus specifically took issue with recent press accounts, including in American Banker, which have speculated that another Republican on the panel could get the job. Possible picks have included Reps. Ed Royce of California, Scott Garrett of New Jersey and Jeb Hensarling of Texas.
But Bachus insisted all such talk was mistaken.
"Go to people who make the decision and that's not lobbyists," he said. "Go to the Steering Committee and ask them what they're thinking. As a matter of fact, go to somebody like who you all keep naming in these articles, go to them and ask them whose going to be chairman."
He also claimed he had the backing of Republican Leader John Boehner, saying, "I'm going to have John's support. Go ask John, don't ask some staffer up here."
But Boehner's office would not comment on the matter.
"Such decisions will be made by the Steering Committee at the appropriate time," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Republican Leader John Boehner.
Bachus singled out the Independent Community Bankers of America, claiming the group opposes him as chairman and blaming them for spreading rumors he will not get the job.
"I'm truly amazed at the community bankers," Bachus said during his speech. "The community bankers don't want me to be the next chairman, they've been in these rumor articles saying that I shouldn't be the chairman. But I really criticized them, they basically endorsed what is a highly mismanaged Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which I think ought to be called the Credit Allocation Bureau."
But top officials at ICBA said they have taken no such position and have not discussed who might be chairman next year.
"I'm not sure where that came from," said Steve Verdier, a senior vice president for the ICBA. "We have been happy to work with Rep. Bachus and have worked well with him. We want to work with Mr. Bachus and meet with him and clear up any misunderstandings."
After the speech. Bachus pressed his attack against ICBA further, effectively accusing the group of betraying its membership.
"I've criticized the Independent Community Bankers of America; they've endorsed the financial services bill, and they've assured their members they would be exempted and they're not," said Bachus. "They weren't part of the problem and yet their members took it on the chin… You're going to see that independent bankers all over the country agree with me. I mean they're very upset."
Verdier said that the group did not endorse the creation of the CFPB, but "we did try to work the process to the best that we could for our members."
Although banks with less than $10 billion of assets have to comply with new rules written by the CFPB, they are exempted from enforcement by the new agency. The existing banking regulators will enforce all consumer regulations against community banks.
Speculation about the chairmanship of the Financial Services Committee has grown as the odds of Republicans retaking the House have increased. Although Bachus is a top fund-raiser for fellow GOP lawmakers, he has let many of his subcommittee chairmen, including Garrett and Hensarling, chair hearings and take the lead on critical issues. Privately, some sources have criticized Bachus as not sufficiently forceful against the current committee chair, Rep. Barney Frank.
Bachus acknowledged that the Republicans have not won the House yet and that no one knows how the November elections will play out.
"I can't even predict tomorrow much less what's going to happen in November," he said. "We're on track to take the majority but we have a lot of work to do."
He also criticized the short-list of potential candidates to replace him, suggesting other lawmakers he also saw as qualified for the job, including Reps. Judy Biggert of Illinois, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Peter King of New York and Randy Neugebauer of Texas.
"I also think this terminology 'measuring the drapes' is not what we're doing, but we've been prepared to lead in the Financial Services Committee for a long time," he said.
"If I suddenly announced that I were not running, you've got Peter King, you've got Ed [Royce], Judy Biggert, you've got Shelley Capito, as well as you know Jeb [Hensarling], Randy Neugebauer, who is the vice chairman. We've got probably 10 members on the map that are ready to be a chairman of the committee and could do a great job."
If Bachus is tapped as chairman, he said the top of his agenda would be "oversight," but did not get into details.
"We've had no oversight in the past four years," he said. "When I was oversight chairman, we had hearings that resulted in the resignation of three high ranking officials in the Clinton administration. We exposed a lot of wrong-doing. We've had oversight by [Rep.] Darrell Issa on the Government Oversight Committee but our oversight committee on Financial Services is basically nonfunctioning."
Bachus told reporters "yes" when asked if he would seek to repeal the recently passed regulatory reform law.
"We are going to get the government out of making day to day decisions that the American people ought to make," he said. "We are going to end too big to fail."