WASHINGTON — Democrats are fearful that a Dodd-Frank Act rewrite in the House has more legs than in the last Congress and want to elevate the issue publicly in hopes of blocking it.
In an unusual move by the minority, Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee called an additional hearing on the Financial Choice Act, which was authored by chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Tex., and is scheduled for a vote on Tuesday.
Among those testifying was Dodd-Frank’s fiercest defender, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. The witness list also included 10 other consumer advocates and representatives of left-leaning think tanks.
The GOP bill is an updated version of legislation that passed out of committee last year without Democratic support. That vote lasted less than an hour after Democrats decided their best course of action was to ignore it and not offer any amendments. This time around the vote is expected to last for days as Democrats want to draw more attention to the issue.
“We are going to try and daylight just how bad it is,” Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., said in an interview. “The more information we can get, the more information the public sees, I think the stronger the opposition is.”
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., echoed those remarks in a separate interview, saying, “The strategy is to really highlight how wrong the Choice Act is.”
“It will be interesting next week” when the bill goes to a panel vote, he said.
The approach by Democrats has likely changed in part because last year's bill had no chance of becoming law with a Democrat in the White House. But with Republicans in charge of the House, Senate and presidency, the situation is obviously different. House Democrats are counting on their Senate counterparts to filibuster any similar effort in that chamber.
“It is a different ball game now that the Republicans are completely in charge now — the White House — this is a real threat,” Kildee said.
During a briefing with reporters on Thursday, Hensarling said he and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, are close in communication with the White House and that they had met earlier in the day with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.
Mnuchin is expected to release a report in June that will provide a list of recommendations on how the White House and Congress can deregulate the financial industry. Hensarling told reporters that he expects that report to mirror much of the Financial Choice Act.
“I just think they are on the wrong path, whether it is the White House or Jeb Hensarling, it is pretty clear whose side they are on and it’s not the people who work hard,” Kildee said. “This is probably the most significant action that the committee will take, and the idea that we can completely rewrite financial regulations after only one hearing is preposterous.”
However, Republicans said they won't shy away from the bill.
"The Financial Choice Act will reduce regulations and encourage economic growth and opportunity. I am proud to support this legislation," said Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio.