Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Financial Reform Bill Update

Congress moved on multiple fronts last week, bringing the financial regulatory reform bill to the edge of enactment and sending to the President's desk a pair of bills extending the flood insurance program and the settlement deadline for the home buyer tax credit. President Obama signed both bills on Friday.

The House approved the Dodd-Frank bill Wednesday by a 237-192 vote, though the week did not go by without some unexpected drama. While the legislation was expected to be approved by both the House and Senate in time to meet President Obama’s July 4 deadline, last-minute objections over a $19 billion bank tax added in the dead of night led to the bill being reopened in order to remove the provision. The passing early in the week of Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., also changed the vote count for passage.

The Senate is still expected to pass the financial reform package, but not until Congress returns the week of July 12.

House Passes Regulatory Reform Conference Report; Senate Passage Delayed
A week after passing what was thought to be the final Dodd-Frank regulatory reform bill out of the conference committee, prospects for final passage in Congress were complicated by two major events.

First, the death of Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., June 28 cost Senate Democrats a crucial vote for the legislation, and necessitated the Senate adjourning early for memorial services. Byrd’s passing, coupled with an announcement by Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., that he would oppose the legislation after a bank tax was added to the bill at the end of the conference process, left congressional leaders scrambling to wrap up the legislation before the July 4 deadline set by President Obama.

In an attempt to win back Brown’s vote, as well as several other moderate Republicans, the conference committee reconvened on June 29 and removed the bank tax, replacing it with an increase in Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. fees and an earlier sunset of the Troubled Asset Relief Program. With these changes, the House passed the conference report Wednesday evening by a 237-192 vote.

The Senate, however, delayed a final vote on the legislation until after the Independence Day break. That period will be critical to determining if the most recent legislative changes will sway enough Republicans to break the expected filibuster, and it will also provide time for the governor of West Virginia to fill that state’s vacant Senate seat.

MBA sent a letter to the conferees stating that while changes to the conference report modestly improved the legislation, it still believes that additional improvements can be made to limit the negative impact the bill will have on businesses and consumers. MBA will continue to monitor this issue as it develops over the next 10 days.