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GOP uses budget, other tools to sap financial law
• Curbed the trading of derivatives, speculative investments partly blamed for the 2008 financial crisis.
• Gave the Federal Reserve powers to oversee huge companies whose failures could jeopardize the entire financial system.
Yet the law was just a start, since 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.
Republicans say the overhaul went too far and has saddled banks and other companies with requirements that harm their competitiveness. The House Financial Services panel alone has held more than a dozen hearings on the law, in part to underscore to administration witnesses that some provisions — such as forcing banks to hold back capital as a hedge against losses — will hurt business, according to the committee’s chairman, Rep. Spencer Bachus, Alabama Republican.
“What we are doing is rational; it is sensible; it is entirely practical; it is compassionate,” said Rep. Nan Hayworth, New York Republican, who is a tea-party-backed freshman on that panel. “So we are doing the right thing, and it behooves the Senate and the administration to follow suit.”
Following a May clash between Ms. Warren and a House subcommittee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, who is House Oversight Committee chairman, plans to question Ms. Warren, a Harvard law professor and longtime consumer activist, at a July 14 hearing about her role in shaping the new agency.
Meanwhile, 44 GOP senators have promised to block a vote on any nominee unless the bureau is made “accountable to the American people” by replacing the director with a board of directors and giving Congress control over its budget. Forty-one senators can prevent a nomination from coming to a vote.
“You try to get leverage where you can. In the Senate, nominations are your leverage,” said Mark A. Calabria, who monitors financial regulation at the conservative-leaning Cato Institute.
On another front, Republicans want to cut the budgets of agencies that are supposed to enforce the overhaul.
Besides denying the SEC extra money next year, the House Appropriations Committee would limit the consumer protection bureau to $200 million, well below the $329 million Mr. Obama wants. The full House has voted to hold the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which oversees derivatives, to $171 million, short of this year’s total and less than two-thirds of what Mr. Obama wanted.
Republicans cast the cuts as part of their deficit-cutting drive, but Democrats say the reductions are designed to obstruct the new law.
SEC Chairwoman Mary L. Schapiro said in a speech this spring that budget cuts would mean “an investor-protection effort hobbled.”
By Brahma Chellaney
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