House Panel Passes Reg Tweaks, But Partisan Tensions Remain

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WASHINGTON — The House Financial Services Committee approved nearly a dozen regulatory reform bills for community banks and credit unions on Thursday, though Democrats signaled they remain concerned about efforts to roll back the Dodd-Frank Act and consumer protection measures.

The 11 bills largely flew through the banking panel with bipartisan support, albeit after hours of debate on Wednesday. The legislative package includes a popular bill allowing financial institutions to send out privacy notices when the disclosures change rather than annually, a measure that would keep confidential any privileged information shared between state and federal regulators and a provision to decrease check-clearing times in some U.S. territories. All three passed with unanimous support.

The panel also passed bills that would make changes to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's structure and rules. The bills would refigure how certain points and fees are calculated under the agency's "qualified mortgage" rule; require the CFPB to hold open meetings; create a small business advisory board at the agency; and establish an appeals process for areas to be designated as "rural" under the QM rule. Additional legislation would allow privately insured credit unions to access the Federal Home Loan Bank System, exempt some mortgages from escrow account requirements, remove some manufactured housing from being considered "high cost" and direct the banking agencies to complete a study on capital requirements for mortgage services.

"Today, the Financial Services Committee has begun to move the pendulum closer to the direction of reasonable regulation by taking the first step to address much-needed regulatory relief for our Main Street financial institutions and the consumers they serve," said Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, chairman of the panel's financial institutions and consumer credit subcommittee. "These 11 bills will help jump-start economic growth across America and help move individuals and families closer to the American Dream."

While the package of bills passed with considerable support, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said she remains concerned about GOP efforts to undermine banking law.

"I believe there are several very reasonable proposals before us today — on which I and my fellow Democratic members would earnestly like to collaborate with Republicans," she said during Wednesday's markup.

At the same time, she added, "it's been very difficult."

"Countless times last year, our members worked with you on proposals that would provide relief for community banks, make technical fixes to Dodd-Frank and reauthorize important programs. But we have ended up seeing little real legislative progress — progress that requires thoughtful negotiations, open communication and a willingness to compromise so that legislation can actually be signed into law," she said.

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Law and regulation Dodd-Frank