Sen. Chris Dodd appears obsessed with getting a bipartisan financial reform package through the Senate Banking Committee, no matter if it makes a mockery of reform, no matter if it includes virtually nothing to protect consumers or deal with the problem of “too big to fail” financial firms. He’s already seeking to drop the Volcker rule put forward by the White House that would limit proprietary trading from banks:
However, Shelby said he expects to hold a meeting with Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) regarding the way forward on regulatory reform in two weeks time. A Democratic banking committee staffer confirmed that the meeting between Dodd and Shelby will be critical as Dodd needs to determine the level of bipartisan agreement and the timing of bringing the bill through committee and on the Senate floor.
With the election of Republican Scott Brown to the Senate, the Democrats no longer have the necessary 60 votes to force through a Regulatory Reform package, and any bill will need at least some Republican support to pass. A Dodd staffer said the senator is likely to quietly drop or modify many of the recommendations in the Volcker rule to ensure Republican support for regulatory reform.
“Chris is retiring so he wants to end his career with an important regulatory reform bill and he wants to make the bill bipartisan,” the staffer said. “He is not going to risk bipartisan support to make the White House happy.”
A spokeswoman for Dodd denied that he would drop the Volcker rule, eventually stating that the Chairman supports it. That’s positive, that he’s walking back these reports after a host of criticism. But it’s not just Dodd. Mark Warner (D-VA) is also out there attacking the Volcker rule:
Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat on the banking committee from Virginia, also said he has concerns regarding elements of the Volcker rule, many of which are already being dealt with by the committee. He said that one of the problems is in the definition of what constitutes proprietary trading and that regulators should be more proactive in determining what constitutes excessive risk taking by financial players.
Warner also said that the prospective Senate version of the Kanjorski amendment passed by the House also includes using capital adequacy standards to reign in excessive risk taking by financial institutions and that such an approach gives regulators greater flexibility.
The concern for me is that Volcker’s plan wouldn’t survive a committee vote.
The New York Times has more on the Senate Banking Committee talks, where Democratic and Republican Senators are paired off working on elements of the policy. Clearly, maximum pressure needs to be applied to this process, by advocacy groups and the White House, so that we don’t end up with reform in name only.