Though House Republicans are almost certain to be frustrated in trying to repeal provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, they are likely to have some success in using oversight powers to influence how the law is implemented.
GOP lawmakers have vowed to watch regulators as they write rules to enforce the law, and observers say this would probably make the agencies much more cautious.
The effort to influence regulators as they write the rules has already begun. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., a leading candidate for chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, sent a letter to the Financial Stability Oversight Council warning of the dangers of the Volcker Rule and its "damage to U.S. competitiveness and job creation."
"It seems to me that is the start of what seems to be a lot of efforts by Republicans to limit the damage the Dodd-Frank bill is likely to cause," says Peter Wallison, a co-director of the American Enterprise Institute's program on financial markets deregulation.
Observers say Dodd-Frank is even more prone to Congressional influence than other financial laws because it left so many details to be worked out later. Republicans are expected to direct most of their attention to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Rep. Darrell Issa, who is expected to be chairman of the House Oversight Committee, made clear that he plans to hold hearings on the CFPB, in particular. "If I were Elizabeth Warren, I'd be concerned," says Peter Barrett, an industry lobbyist.
Bankers are already holding out hope that Republicans can plead their case to regulators to soften the Dodd-Frank rules. "I think some oversight where you can talk outside of 'Technically, this is what the law says to do,' and talk more broadly on what this does to the economy can be very valuable," says Ed Yingling, the president and chief executive of the American Bankers Association. For example, he hopes Republicans will help shape implementation of the Durbin amendment, which charges the Federal Reserve with regulating interchange fees on debit cards.
Despite the warning shots, the added attention could benefit regulators. Mark Calabria, the director of financial regulations studies at the Cato Institute, says FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair may find support for her agency's proposals to force creditors to take significant haircuts in a large bank failure.