On Wednesday, the Senate entered its second day of debate over the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act. The bill enacts modifications to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act signed into law in 2010 by President Obama. A full Senate vote is expected to happen this week, after which the bill will have to then return to the House of Representatives and pass there as well. This follows the House passing its own regulatory reform bill last week, which the Senate passed over in favor of crafting its own version.
The bill enacts numerous reforms and changes regulations pertaining to lenders. One of the primary changes is increasing the threshold for enhanced regulatory standards from $50 billion to $250 billion, a change designed to exempt some smaller and mid-sized banks from regulations that would still apply to the larger banking entities. The affected regulations pertain to capital and liquidity rules, risk management standards, and stress testing requirements, among other things. The bill also exempts banks with less than $10 billion in assets from the Volcker Rule, which limits risky trading by U.S. banks, and dials back restrictions on small and regional banks when it comes to restrictions on mortgage lending.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), who has been a longtime opponent of weakening Dodd-Frank, said, “If we lose the final vote next week, we’ll be paving the way for the next big crash. It’s time for the rest of us to fight back and demand that Washington work for us, not the big bank lobbyists.”
The bill does have plenty of Democratic defenders, however, several of whom argue that the reforms could help community banks flourish and help revitalize rural economies. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), a supporter of the legislation, said, “When you don’t respond to these kinds of legitimate concerns from small lenders, there’s a resentment to the overall policy. We tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater with that kind of frustration.”
More than a dozen banks sent a letter to Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) earlier this week, expressing their support for the proposed legislation. “Our banks do not threaten U.S. financial market stability, and we should not be subjected to the same regulatory regime as larger banks with more complex and interconnected business models,” the letter read in part. “Regional and traditional lenders and our communities have been disadvantaged by a regulatory model that lumps us together with the largest, most complex banks.”
The Credit Union National Association  also sent a letter of support to Senate letters. Their letter read, in part, “We applaud the good faith effort to craft common-sense regulatory reform legislation. S.2155 is the result of months of deliberate bipartisan negotiations and contains several provisions supported by America’s credit unions.”
Yana Miles, Senior Legislative Counsel for the Center for Responsible Lending , issued a statement reading, “The financial crisis led to a Great Recession that cost millions of Americans their jobs, homes, and savings. This bill would allow for the return of many of the same reckless financial practices that caused the crash. This bill lifts commonsense safeguards, designed to stop banks from again tanking the economy, while also making it easier for financial companies to sell risky mortgages, discriminate against communities of color, and steer manufactured-home owners into more expensive mortgages. The American public does not want this dangerous bank deregulation. Congress is playing with fire."