The detestable Dana Milbank has an article today on the efforts of financial industry lobbyists to kill the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which would protect borrowers from pernicious lending practices. Some of his reporting is unsurprising, and some is just weird. For one, I'd say he's wrong about saying the CFPA is in danger in the House of Representatives -- it's already been watered down, but it is moving forward. But in the Senate, it's a different story. Compare this paragraph from Milbank's piece today:
[The lobbyist] detailed how various other lawmakers -- Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and, in the House, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) and the Congressional Black Caucus -- were causing various problems for the bill. "It looks more and more like Senate banking won't take it up until January or February, and with next year being an election year, that does raise the concern level," Hempler reported with satisfaction. "This could delay the overall effort." Or, with a bit of luck, kill it outright.
... to this paragraph from a piece I wrote last spring about the Chamber of Commerce:
Nonetheless, the Chamber is lobbying senators whom [the lobbyist] termed on the call "the usual suspects over there on Senate Banking." This includes Johnson -- "for sure," in Matthews' words -- Mark Warner of Virginia, Michael Bennett of Colorado, and Jon Tester of Montana. They are all Democrats the Chamber expects will choose a more business-friendly approach over consumer interests.
Happy to see Warner and Tester didn't make today's lobbyist roll-call, not surprised at all about Johnson. I was astonished to see the CBC on that list, but it may have to do with the decision by CBC members to hold up a recent vote on regulatory reform to protest the lack of economic policy attention given to African Americans. If they are actually fighting the CFPA more generally, they should be ashamed -- African Americans suffered from the depredations of predatory lending wildly out of proportion to any other community, and for their supposed leaders in Congress to block this agency would be a monumental betrayal.
The real problem, though, is the Senate, where no one has stepped forward to champion the CFPA -- Dodd is supporting it, but there is no one else on the Banking committee giving it full-throated backing. That's a real shame. The CFPA is critical to good regulatory reform -- there is no sense in fixing the banks if they can still screw over their customers -- and critical to good regulatory reform politics because it provides tangible benefits to everybody.
-- Tim Fernholz