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Republicans Propose 'Tweaks' To New Financial Rules

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Republicans Propose 'Tweaks' To New Financial Rules


Republicans Propose 'Tweaks' To New Financial Rules

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

One of the very first bills Republicans proposed on the first day of this congress called for repealing the financial overhaul law that had been passed the year before. But since then, the Republican bill has languished, which does not mean Republicans are giving up. The GOP's latest plan, as NPR's Audie Cornish reports, is what detractors call death by a thousand cuts.

(Soundbite of music)

AUDIE CORNISH: Go to the webpage of the House Financial Services Committee and what do you find - a Republican video highlighting what's wrong with the Wall Street law. Splashed across the screen are daunting stats: 2,600 new bureaucrats, 300 new regulations. But instead of repeal, the GOP call is for fixing the failed policies of Dodd-Frank. That's Dodd-Frank for the bill's authors - Congressman Barney Frank and former Senator Chris Dodd.

Republican Nan Hayworth is a Tea Party-backed freshman from New York. She's had to dial back expectations that the Wall Street law would be taken down in the House the way the new health care law was.

Representative NAN HAYWORTH (Republican, New York): The more we depower, defund Dodd-Frank, the better. But we're doing so in a way that we feel will have the greatest results within the time frame of the 112th Congress.

CORNISH: Instead, Republicans are trying to retool the new law even the parts of it that haven't hit the books yet, says co-author Barney Frank, the committee's ranking Democrat.

Representative BARNEY FRANK (Democrat, Massachusetts): They recognize that the financial reform is more popular. So with health care, they just did a flat-out repeal, and they also offered budget amendments. With the financial reform, they're trying to nibble it to death.

CORNISH: And now is as good a time as any, as many of the law's regulations are still unwritten.

Rep. FRANK: They're able to do it - they think, I don't think they'll get away with it - because attention is focused on the debt and on health care. They're trying to do this beneath the radar screen.

CORNISH: Republicans have been working on four bills aimed at one part of the financial industry law - the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is supposed to oversee financial products from credit cards to home loans.

Freshman Republican Sean Duffy of Wisconsin is among those proposing what he calls tweaks to the law. His proposal would make it easier to override rules written by the new consumer bureau.

Representative SEAN DUFFY (Republican, Wisconsin): I get concerned when I see regulation after regulation. We just pile it on and we don't have a comprehensive review on to see what impact does all of these massive rules have on our banking system.

CORNISH: Of course, Democrats such as Minnesota's Keith Ellison don't see it that way.

Representative KEITH ELLISON (Democrat, Minnesota): If the rules were firmly in place, then we would know whether or not the legislation or the rule needs to be, quote, unquote, "tweaked." We don't know that yet, I mean, because all this stuff is being fashioned now.

CORNISH: There's also a bill that would bar the consumer bureau from acting on its full power until a director is in place. And another measure would replace the director with a five-member commission.

But there's no appetite in the Democrat-led Senate to take them up, according to Senator Mark Warner, a member of the Banking Committee.

Senator MARK WARNER (Democrat, Virginia): I think there are areas in Dodd-Frank that could stand tweakings, but the concern I think here on the Senate side is that we don't want to re-litigate the whole issue. And if you open up one of these bills, then you don't know what might end up coming back.

CORNISH: But also because there's still a Senate battle looming over who will head the new consumer bureau. President Obama appointed Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren to get it up and running, with a launch date in July.

Whether Warren will be his choice as the first director is one question and whether Democrats have the votes to confirm her is still another. Senate Republicans have written the president, saying they would refuse to confirm any nominee unless there are changes to the law.

Audie Cornish, NPR News, the Capitol.

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