WASHINGTON — House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, is about to go on the offensive to roll back the Dodd-Frank Act, outlining reform legislation Tuesday that would give banks a break from certain provisions of the reform law and Basel III requirements in return for higher capital.
Speaking to an American Bankers Association conference, Hensarling said the 2010 financial reform law had done significant damage to the market and needed to be immediately repealed.
"I will not rest until Dodd-Frank is ripped out by its roots and tossed on the trash heap of history!" Hensarling said in a spirited speech that ended with a standing ovation from bankers.
He said Republicans are "deep into our planning" about an alternative reform bill, outlining several components. The chief one is allowing banks to be released from certain Dodd-Frank and Basel III requirements if they hold higher capital. That idea was first suggested by Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Vice Chairman Thomas Hoenig, who has argued that the current regulatory regime is too complex for most institutions.
Hensarling also vowed to subject new rules to cost-benefit requirements and increase transparency at the Federal Reserve Board.
"You'll see us offer a bold alternative to the sclerotic status quo of our financial markets," Hensarling said, adding that it would be released "soon."
Requiring a cost-benefit analysis of regulations is an idea many Republicans have already been pushing. Earlier this month, Hensarling's committee passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., that would have subjected new regulations to a cost-benefit review.
"The truth is, well-designed regulations that are actually beneficial to the public can easily pass the cost-benefit test," Hensarling said. "It can be used to defend good regulations as well as oppose bad ones."
Hensarling specifically took aim at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Qualified Mortgage rule for cutting off mortgage credit for millions.
"If there were any justice in the world, consumers would be able to sue the CFPB for unfair, deceptive and abusive practices — early and often," Hensarling said.
He also faulted Title II of Dodd-Frank, which gave the Fed and FDIC "orderly liquidation authority" and which Hensarling argued would ensure another taxpayer bailout in the event of a crisis. Hensarling added he was no longer sure if "too big to fail" exists.
Hensarling's bill is almost certain to clear both his committee and the full House, even with Democratic opposition. Rep. Maxine Waters, the panel's top Democrat, said Tuesday that Hensarling's plan was "just another attempt by the majority to gut administration policies that have helped millions of Americans."
"Any plan that repeals the heart of Dodd Frank is a futile exercise that could jumpstart another financial crisis," Waters said.
Hensarling's plan would undoubtedly face an uphill battle in the Senate, however. Republicans barely control the chamber with a four-seat margin, and Democrats have said they would block legislation that seeks to substantially roll back Dodd-Frank. President Obama, too, has already said he would veto any repeal.
Still, Hensarling said his alternative bill would gain support.
"Our better approach will demand accountability from both financial institutions and financial regulators," he said. "We will toughen penalties for those who engage in wrongdoing and defraud consumers."