House, Senate exploring how to expand reg relief bill: Top GOP leader

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WASHINGTON — A top House lawmaker said Monday that there are bicameral discussions with the Senate to see if a narrowly tailored bill to roll back the Dodd-Frank Act can be expanded before the Senate votes on the deal.

“Lot of conversations happening between House members and Senate members on expanding the package” before the Senate takes it up, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., told reporters on the sidelines at an event here sponsored by the law firm Jones Walker.

The base of the legislative discussions is a deal that Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, negotiated with four moderate Democrats on the panel. The House passed a more far-reaching bill last summer, but that proposal was unable to garner enough Democratic support in the Senate to overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold.

The Senate package would raise the Dodd-Frank "systemically important financial institution" threshold from $50 billion in assets to $250 billion, giving banks below that higher threshold significant relief from stress testing requirements.

The bill would also make a number of other changes for banks with less than $10 billion in assets, including granting "qualified mortgage" status for loans held on portfolio, and allowing those smaller institutions that hold a high level of tangible equity to be exempt from certain capital and liquidity requirements.

McHenry, who is the House chief deputy whip and vice chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, told the conference attendees that he expects the Senate to take up the bill for a vote in March or April. He said he believes the bill will get enough Democratic support to get 70 or 80 votes in the upper chamber. Crapo negotiated the Senate bill with a core of moderate Democrats on his committee, including Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.

McHenry said the House should be able to move quickly if the Senate passes the legislation. House members have already moved forward on certain piecemeal reg relief measures, including provisions that are in the Senate bill and others that would go further.

“I think we have about two-thirds of the House will support" the reg relief bill, "but that doesn’t mean that that’s the approach we are going to take,” said McHenry, suggesting that the House might not just adopt what the Senate passes.

“We have enough votes to process that bill quickly and very easily, and we can be much, much more aggressive in terms of policy,” he said.

However, he noted that the Senate is limited in terms of what the upper chamber can pass with bipartisan support and said there might not be a lot of wiggle room to get additional Dodd-Frank rollbacks in the Senate.

“The Senate, I think, is at its limit with that piece of legislation," McHenry said, "and so we will have to work through what is the best avenue to get as much impact as we possibly can for medium-sized down to community-sized, small financial institutions which is what that package is focused on.”

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Regulatory relief Regulatory reform Dodd-Frank SIFIs Stress tests Mike Crapo House Financial Services Committee Senate Banking Committee