Among the top-tier issues from the 111th Congress that will be re-visited in the 112th is the landmark Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Public Law 111-203). If anyone had any doubt that this comprehensive 16-Title, 849-page tome would get a second look from the Republican-controlled House, those doubts were put to rest on the first day of the new Congress, when Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) introduced legislation to repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. There is nothing ambiguous about her 1-sentence bill (H.R. 87), which reads in its entirety: “The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Public Law 111–203) is repealed and the provisions of law amended by such Act are revived or restored as if such Act had not been enacted.” The repeal measure is cosponsored by four of Bachmann's Republican colleagues (Reps. Darrell Issa (CA), Bill Posey (FL), Todd Aiken (MO) and Tom McClintock (CA)), and has been referred to the following eight House Committees: Financial Services; Agriculture; Energy & Commerce; Judiciary; Budget; Oversight & Government Reform; Ways & Means; and Small Business – ensuring an extensive and protracted hearing schedule.
However, even prior to the introduction of Rep. Bachmann’s repeal bill, incoming House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) had indicated that he intends on reviewing the Dodd-Frank Act “provision by provision” while Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), the incoming Chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, reportedly was considering the introduction of legislation that would push back all regulatory deadlines contained in the Dodd-Frank Act by one year. Given the Republican take-over of the House coupled with the fact that only three Republicans voted in favor of passage of the Dodd-Frank Act (Reps. Joseph Cao (LA), Mike Castle (DE) and Walter Jones (NC)) – and two of the three (Cao and Castle) did not return to the 112th Congress – the Republican majority may well be able to push a roll back of effective dates through the House; however, with Democratic control (albeit by a slim margin) in the Senate and President Obama likely to veto such a roll back if it were to pass Congress, prospects for such a roll back being enacted into law are at best a very long-shot.
While the Republican-dominated House Financial Services Committee is expected to spend substantial amounts of time considering legislation to repeal, roll back and/or delay all or some of the provisions contained in the Dodd-Frank Act, the Democratic-controlled Senate Banking Committee’s first responsibility regarding the Dodd-Frank Act may not involve looking at undoing the work of the 111th Congress, but rather equipping the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to assume its statutory responsibilities come July 21, 2011. The Senate Banking Committee has responsibility for conducting confirmation hearings on President Obama’s nominees to fill vacant positions at a number of the federal regulatory agencies who oversee, examine, and regulate various segments of the financial services industry. Leading the list of high-profile nominations that will come before the Senate Banking Committee will be the President’s nominee to be the first director of the CFPB. While former Harvard Law professor and current Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the CFPB, Elizabeth Warren, was the favorite of many to serve as the initial Director of the CFPB (which she nurtured from concept to reality), former Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd’s (D-CT) view that his former Senate colleagues would likely find her “unconfirmable” seems to be a view shared by many. As a result, a broader net has been cast for a CFPB Director who shares the vision of the authors of the Dodd-Frank Act but would also be likely to receive a favorable nod from a majority of the Senate. Reportedly now under consideration for the post are Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller; New York Banking Commissioner Richard Neiman; and former director of the Office of Thrift Supervision Ellen Seidman.
Congress is just getting organized and the agenda is still being formulated. But be prepared to see many of the more controversial elements of the Dodd-Frank Act, including the Volcker Rule, the Durbin interchange fee amendment, the scope of authority of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and many other provisions revisited in the weeks and months ahead.