January 01, 2018

Senate Banking Committee: A Year In Review

Serving as Senate Banking Committee Chairman over the past year has been an honor and responsibility as the committee has worked to manage legislation that affects so many Americans.  Despite the current political climate, my priority has been to find agreement on common-sense reforms.  One significant achievement has been to reach bipartisanship on the committee, avoiding many partisan battles that plague so much of Congress.  The following are some of those efforts over the past year.

Right-sizing Regulation:  Community banks and credit unions have long struggled to keep up with ever-increasing regulatory compliance and examiner demands coming from Washington.  This places strain on small businesses looking to open or grow and can cause American consumers to lose access to or pay more for traditional banking services.  I worked with members of the committee and fellow Idaho Senator Jim Risch to introduce S. 2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, to tailor regulations from a one-size fits all approach to something that makes sense for small financial institutions, benefitting consumers and encouraging economic growth.  The Banking Committee advanced the bill to the Senate floor on a bipartisan vote of 16-7.  

Reigning In Bureaucracy:  The Senate passed legislation overturning the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) flawed arbitration rule that would have promoted class action litigation over arbitration in financial resolution disputes.  The CFPB failed to demonstrate that consumers would fare better under the agency’s rule, and several academics and federal regulators insisted consumers may be worse off.

Holding Russia And North Korea Accountable:

  • Russia:  I worked with Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), and others to secure passage of the Countering Russian Aggression and Cyberattacks Act of 2017, signed into law by the President in August.  This bipartisan legislation maintains and substantially expands sanctions against the government of Russia in response to the violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and Crimea, its brazen cyber-attacks and interference in elections, and its continuing aggression in Syria.
  • North Korea: The Banking Committee passed the Otto Warmbier Banking Restrictions Involving North Korea Act of 2017.  The bill will strengthen and expand U.S. sanctions on North Korea and its financial facilitators and supporters; strengthen congressional oversight of North Korea sanctions; allow states and local governments to divest from, companies that engage in certain defined investment activity in North Korea; and strengthen the U.S. Department of Treasury’s role in combating human trafficking.

Advancing Leadership that will Encourage Economic Growth:  We shepherded important nominations well-equipped to lead our economy and country in a positive direction through the Senate.  Those include Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell; Federal Reserve Board Governor Randy Quarles; and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.

Legislation and Oversight:  The committee also passed several other bills and provided critical oversight on important issues:

  • Securities bills that will improve economic growth and investor protections;
  • The Financial Stability Oversight Council Insurance Member Continuity Act to maintain the voice of someone with insurance expertise on the Council; and
  • The committee held oversight hearings regarding Wells Fargo’s fake account scandal and the Equifax breach that potentially impacted more than 145 million Americans’ sensitive information.  In response, S. 2155 would increase protections for consumers who fall victim to fraud. 

The Banking Committee’s areas of jurisdiction include, but are not limited to banking; insurance; financial markets; securities; housing; urban development and mass transit; international trade and finance; and economic policy.  We still have much work ahead on these issues, and can continue to make progress as we work together to strengthen our nation.

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