Two Democrats added to Senate Banking Committee in new term

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WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats will add two new members to the Banking Committee in January as their caucus loses two current members who suffered election defeats.

Senator-elect Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., will join the panel just as Sens. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who both lost re-election bids in November, are departing.

Donnelly and Heitkamp were key Democratic negotiators on the regulatory relief bill known as S 2155 that President Trump signed into law in May, but lost their seats in states that Trump won easily in 2016.

Sinema was elected in November to the seat now held by retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. She has served on the House Financial Services Committee, where she supported S 2155.

Sinema has had a history of supporting other industry-friendly bills, including a measure that would have eliminated the threshold for banks to be considered “systemically important financial institutions,” which was viewed as too controversial to pass the Senate. She has also supported structural changes to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to make it a bipartisan commission, which most Democrats oppose.

Sinema’s assignment is likely a sigh of relief for the banking industry looking for Democratic supporters of regulatory relief. But she could find herself at odds with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who criticized Democratic supporters of S 2155. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the committee's ranking member, also opposed the bill.

Smith was appointed by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to replace former Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat, after he resigned. Smith went on to win a special election in Minnesota to fill the remainder of Franken’s term ending in January 2021. She opposed S 2155.

Senate Republicans are still in the process of assigning members to committees.

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