It’s become clear that Tom Carper’s weakening amendment to the Consumer Financial Protection bureau will pass. While not as far-reaching as a competing amendment from Bob Corker, the Carper amendment, modified after negotiations with Chris Dodd, the Treasury Department and the Democratic leadership, it would do two major things:
1. It would block class-action lawsuits by state Attorneys General against national banks.
2. It would allow the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to pre-empt regulation at the state level of consumer financial protection laws.
Chris Dodd and Mark Warner are saying that the compromise measure “strikes a balance” between total pre-emption, as recommended by the Corker amendment, and using the federal consumer protection agency as a floor, which is the standard encouraged by Elizabeth Warren. But her words ring true: this is designed to weaken the consumer protection agency, and it appears it will do the job today. The banks have scored a partial victory here.
(Maybe everyone will stop saying that the Senate bill “keeps getting better” now.)
A similar measure in the House gave powers to the OCC to pre-empt state-based laws, so that’s likely to be in the final bill.
The vote is expected shortly. Sen. Dodd has urged passage. Bob Corker just urged his colleagues to support the Carper effort as “half a loaf,” so there’s little chance that conservatives would bolt on the compromise.
UPDATE: This compromise is apparently not as bad as the House version, because it rolls back the pre-emption standard to 1996, before it was weakened further by a Republican Congress in 2004. But there’s no question this weakens the overall ability to regulate consumer financial protection. Nobody can doubt that.
Voting has just begun.
UPDATE II: Keep in mind that pre-emption of state consumer protection laws was the number one most wanted “lobbyist loophole,” as expressed by White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer.
UPDATE III: The Corker amendment, which allowed for a full pre-emption of state consumer protection laws, failed 43-55. The Carper amendment is up now.
UPDATE IV: And the Carper amendment passes 80-18. Once again, people can stop saying “it’s just getting better and better in the Senate” right about now.
UPDATE V: Here’s Elizabeth Warren on the passage of today’s compromise:
“The big banks and their army of lobbyists have fought aggressively to block states from being able to pass and enforce laws to protect their own citizens. No other industry gets the special exception from state law that the big banks demand. The compromise today is disappointing, but it does not cut out the states entirely and it ensures that the big banks will face some scrutiny from state officials.”
Sounds like she’s talking herself into being OK with it.