Jan 13, 2015 10:45 AM

House GOP majority aiming to soften financial overhaul law

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) The newly bulked-up Republican majority in the House is aiming to soften the bite of legislation that grew out of the 2008 financial crisis and put banks and Wall Street under the most sweeping rules since the Great Depression.

The House was opening debate Tuesday on a bill that would alter sections of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul. Most notably, the Republican-led bill would give U.S. banks another two years until 2019 to ensure that their holdings of certain complex and risky securities don't put them afoul of a new banking rule. A vote is expected by early Wednesday.

The bill would revise the so-called Volcker rule, a key part of the financial overhaul law, which would limit banks' riskiest trading bets. That kind of risk-taking on Wall Street helped trigger the 2008 crisis.

The bill won a 276-146 majority in the House last Wednesday only the second day of the new Congress but failed under fast-track rules that required a two-thirds vote. This time it's likely to pass under rules that require a simple majority.

Republicans in the House have been trying for years to chip away at the Dodd-Frank law, which Congress enacted with mostly Democratic support to tighten regulation with an eye to preventing another crisis. Republicans have denounced the law as an excessive expansion of regulatory authority that's stifling the competitiveness of the U.S. financial industry.

As passage appeared closer, the Obama White House issued a formal veto threat Monday, saying the bill "would weaken and undermine" the Dodd-Frank law. Referring to the proposed two-year delay for certain securities under the Volcker rule, the White House said in a statement, "taxpayers should not have to wait that long to have limits in place that protect them from risky practices."

Seeking to blunt the impact, House Democrats proposed to bring at least a dozen amendments to the floor. But Republican lawmakers dominating a rules-setting panel blocked that effort late Monday.

Rep. Maxine Waters of California, the senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, on Monday called the bill "a hastily compiled package ... which will directly benefit some of the wealthiest banks and corporations in America."

The Federal Reserve in April gave banks until July 2017 to sell off their holdings of so-called collateralized loan obligations, which are mainly backed by commercial loans to higher-risk companies. That came atop a previous one-year extension by the Federal Reserve, to July 2015.

The rule is named for Paul Volcker, a former Fed chairman who was an adviser to President Barack Obama during the financial crisis. Volcker urged a ban on high-risk trading by big banks to diminish the likelihood that taxpayers might have to rescue them, as they did after the crisis, with hundreds of billions of dollars in government aid.


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