'Auntie Maxine' Waters Gets Ready To Take On The Banks As House Panel Chair California Rep. Maxine Waters has been a favorite target of President Trump and his supporters. Now she's in line to chair the House Financial Services Committee, where she could slow his agenda.
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'Auntie Maxine' Waters Gets Ready To Take On The Banks As House Panel Chair

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'Auntie Maxine' Waters Gets Ready To Take On The Banks As House Panel Chair

'Auntie Maxine' Waters Gets Ready To Take On The Banks As House Panel Chair

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California is one of President Trump's fiercest critics. She has repeatedly called for his impeachment. And now with Democrats taking control of the House, Waters is expected to head the powerful Financial Services Committee. This position is going to enable Waters to slow down Trump's banking agenda and also delve more deeply into his company's finances. NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Maxine Waters is a political firebrand, unafraid to talk back to anyone. Here she was on the House floor during a debate about discrimination in auto lending.

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MAXINE WATERS: And don't talk to me about the fact that we don't understand what happens on the auto - no. I will not yield. No. I will not yield.

ZARROLI: And the 80-year-old lawmaker became an Internet meme, thanks to exchanges like this one with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

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STEVEN MNUCHIN: The Department of Treasury has cooperated extensively with the Senate Intel Committee, with the House Intel Committee...

WATERS: Reclaiming my time. Reclaiming my time.

MNUCHIN: ...With the Senate...

WATERS: Reclaiming my time. Reclaiming my time.

ZARROLI: Waters' confrontational style has earned her the loathing of President Trump, who disparaged her as having a low IQ, a remark widely condemned as racist. She was one of a handful of Trump critics who were mailed pipe bombs last month. That has only made her double down on her attacks. She drew criticism when she told supporters not to be afraid to harass Trump administration officials if they see them in public. Waters' work on the Financial Services Committee has attracted less attention, but it has earned her admirers, such as Mike Calhoun of the Center for Responsible Lending.

MIKE CALHOUN: She is a tough and savvy defender of consumer protection and holds the feet of the banks and the Trump administration regulators to the fire.

ZARROLI: Waters has positioned herself on the committee as the voice of the little people, quizzing bankers about the impact of their policies on small businesses and homeowners. She earned the nickname Auntie Maxine. Now she's in line to head the committee. In a recent speech, Waters talked about the huge wave of foreclosures in the Great Recession and the massive consumer fraud at banks such as Wells Fargo. And she warned the banks she wasn't about to go easy on them.

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WATERS: What am I going to do to you? What I'm going to do to you is fair. I'm going to do to you what you did to us.

(APPLAUSE)

ZARROLI: In fact, with Congress divided, there's a limit to what Waters can accomplish legislatively, but she can hold hearings. Ian Katz of Capital Alpha Partners says she can haul regulators and bankers before the committee and shine a light on issues she cares about.

IAN KATZ: She can't pass laws. She can make bank executives and some of the regulators appointed by Trump very uncomfortable and create some awkward moments for them.

ZARROLI: Katz points out that Trump has embarked on a major effort to deregulate banking. He says Waters can make that more difficult.

KATZ: She can't necessarily change what they're going to do, change the regulations, but she could slow things down.

ZARROLI: She can also turn up the heat on Trump. Waters has already been a fierce critic of Deutsche Bank, which has been one of the few big banks willing to lend money to Trump's businesses. She was asked about the bank on Bloomberg TV last week.

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WATERS: And we know that Deutsche Bank is identified as one of the biggest money laundering banks, you know, in the world, perhaps, and that they're the only ones who were, you know, amenable to providing loans to this president. So we want to know some things about that.

ZARROLI: Waters is quick to say the committee will look at other issues, too, but her new role will give her the resources to look into how Trump's businesses are financed. And she's made clear she's more than willing to do that. Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.

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