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CHOICE Act Sharply Divides Parties in Congress

The country remains as divided as it has ever been on two of the most polarizing presidential candidates in history as the election is less than two months out. So perhaps it is not surprising that the two major political parties are equally divided on proposed legislation to roll back what the Obama Administration sees as one of its greatest achievements, the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) introduced H.R. 5983, commonly known as the Financial CHOICE Act (Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs) in June 2016, on the eve of Dodd-Frank’s sixth birthday, as an alternative to the highly controversial Wall Street Reform legislation. Among the CHOICE Act’s key proposals are giving banks the option for relief from certain regulations if they meet a certain capital threshold; eliminating the government’s power to designate firms as “systemically important”; and wholesale reforms to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that include removing the Bureau’s director and replacing him with a five-member bipartisan commission.

The Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee tout the CHOICE Act as promoting “growth for all, bailouts for none.”

“If we want strong economic growth and more freedom, we must empower Americans, not Washington bureaucrats.  We must offer all Americans greater opportunities to raise their standard of living and achieve financial independence.  In a phrase, we need economic growth for all and bank bailouts for none.  This is the foundation of the Republican plan to reignite growth by replacing Dodd-Frank with real reforms that work,” Hensarling said.

In the last few months, Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee have derided the proposal, repeatedly referring to it as the “Wrong CHOICE Act.”

Earlier this week in a Committee markup, the CHOICE Act passed by a 30-26 voice vote almost completely among party lines. Every Democrat on the Committee who voted on the CHOICE Act (Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, was the only Democrat who did not vote) voted against it. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Democrats were steadfastly unwilling to compromise their position, offering not one single amendment to the proposal during the markup.

“Mr. Chairman, this bill is so bad that it simply cannot be fixed. This markup is not a serious attempt to move thoughtful legislation, evidenced by the fact that we only had one hearing on one portion of the bill. It's clear that this is a rushed, partisan messaging tool, though why anyone would want to push legislation to deregulate Wall Street at a time like this is beyond me,” Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-California) said during the markup. “So let's not waste any more time on this. Democrats will not offer any amendments, and we move to dispense with this political theater.”

Every Committee Republican who voted (three did not vote), with one exception, voted in favor of the CHOICE Act. The lone Committee Republican who voted against it in the markup was Bruce Poliquin (D-Maine). Poliquin’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his vote.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the CHOICE Act is likely to pass in a full House vote, but is not expected to gain traction in the Senate. Even if it does, President Obama has vowed to veto any attempt to roll back Dodd-Frank, which his Administration views as one of its greatest triumphs.

About Author: Seth Welborn

Seth Welborn is a Harding University graduate with a degree in English and a minor in writing. He is a contributing writer for MReport. An East Texas Native, he has studied abroad in Athens, Greece and works part-time as a photographer.
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