- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Congressional Republicans are greeting the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s financial overhaul law by trying to weaken it, nibble by nibble.

Wary of attempting to dismantle the entire statute and being portrayed as Wall Street’s allies - banks are among the nation’s most unpopular institutions - GOP lawmakers are attacking corners of it. They can’t prevail because they don’t control the White House or Senate, but they may be able to force some compromises on agency budgets, pressure regulators and influence some of Mr. Obama’s nominations.

Days ago, one Republican-run House committee approved bills diluting parts of the law requiring reports on corporate salaries and exempting some investment advisers from registering with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Another House panel voted to slice $200 million from Mr. Obama’s $1.4 billion budget request for the SEC, which has a major enforcement role.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are continuing a procedural blockade that has helped prevent Mr. Obama from putting Elizabeth Warren or anyone else in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which opens its doors in two weeks.

The law hurts “the formation of capital, the cost of capital and access to capital, and you can’t have capitalism without capital,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Texas Republican, a leader of the House Financial Services Committee. “So Republicans in the House will be examining each and every one of the 2,000-plus pages” of the law, which he called “a job creator’s nightmare.”

Confident that Mr. Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate can prevent the House from doing major damage, Democrats view the Republican drive as a political exercise, for now.

“It’s mostly setting a marker for the election. And it helps with their campaign contributions,” said Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, who chaired the Financial Services Committee last year and was a chief author of the law. “But it also tells people in the financial community that if they win the next election, they’ll be able to undo it all.”

Mr. Obama signed the banking and consumer protection measure last July 21, a keystone achievement that responded to the biggest financial crisis and most severe recession since the 1930s. It passed Congress with solid Democratic support and near-uniform Republican opposition.

Yet the law was just a start because it ordered federal agencies to craft rules to enforce it. As of July 1, out of an estimated 400 regulations to be written, 38 are complete. That leaves 362 proposed, facing a future deadline or having missed due dates for completion, according to the law firm Davis Polk.