The House Takes Another Step Toward Repealing Dodd-Frank

The chamber voted along party lines to weaken key Obama-era financial reforms.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan
Cliff Owen / AP

In the background of the hubbub surrounding the testimony of the former FBI Director James Comey, House Republicans voted on Thursday to repeal key provisions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The Financial CHOICE Act, which represents another step toward rolling back Obama-era regulations that the Republican Party sees as anathema to economic growth, passed by a 233-186 vote almost entirely along party lines. (One Republican, Walter Jones of North Carolina, voted against the bill, while no Democrats voted in favor.)

If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the CHOICE Act would undo a number of Dodd-Frank’s key provisions. First, it would significantly weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Dodd-Frank established in 2011, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, by allowing the president to fire their heads at will. It would also rein in key oversight provisions introduced by Dodd-Frank, including exempting some banks from restrictions intended to limit risk-taking in the financial sector and replacing Dodd-Frank’s orderly liquidation authority, which provides a framework for large, systemically-important institutions to unload troubled assets. Finally, it would follow through on President Trump’s February executive order calling for eliminating the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, parts of which go into effect on June 9 and which requires financial advisors to act in the best financial interests of their clients in any matter related to retirement.

According to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the bill is part of the Republican Party’s broader efforts to spur job growth by eliminating regulations. On Thursday, Ryan called the CHOICE Act “the crown jewel of this effort,” further asserting that “the Dodd-Frank Act has had a lot of bad consequences for our economy, but most of all in the small communities across our country.” Trump, too, weighed in on the bill via Twitter, congratulating its sponsor, Jeb Hensarling of Texas, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee:

Having passed the House, the bill now moves to the Senate. Passage there, however, is far from guaranteed. The fairly slim Republican majority in the upper chamber means that, in order to avoid a filibuster, the party will have to convince at least eight Democrats to vote in favor of the bill. According to The New York Times, banking lobbyists believe that it’s unlikely Democrats will do so without significant concessions, including greater protections for the CFPB and retention of the Volcker Rule, which constrains trading by large investment banks. Alternately, as CNN notes, the Senate could potentially pass a more limited bill via the same 50-vote reconciliation process they intend to use for the American Health Care Act. If they do so, Republicans will be able to chip away at Dodd-Frank’s reforms without needing any votes from the Democrats who passed the bill in the first place.