On both sides of the Capitol, there was news on the committee that holds oversight responsibilities over Wall Street today. In addition to Elizabeth Warren getting her spot on the Senate Banking Committee, Maxine Waters assumed the spot of ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee. Here’s her statement:
I am deeply humbled to be elected as Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee by my Democratic colleagues today. I want to foremost extend my sincere gratitude and appreciation to Congressman Barney Frank for both his friendship and outstanding service to the Committee, particularly for his steadfast leadership during the 2008 financial crisis – the most perilous moment our economy has faced since the Great Depression. The last few years have been very turbulent for our financial system, and Congressman Frank should be commended for leading us out of the crisis, and assuring the passage of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which rightfully bears his name.
Waters gets unfairly used as a punching bag, particularly from good government groups, although the most recent faux-scandal about her using clout to get favors for OneUnited Bank was completely untrue and fizzled in the Ethics Committee.
But I’ve watched the Financial Services Committee closely enough to know that Waters, no doubt helped by her excellent staff, has made the most of recent hearings, challenging the holders of power, particularly on the issue of the foreclosure crisis. It was Waters who, back in November 2010 pulled out the Treasury Department’s own prior statements that they would actually impose monetary penalties on any servicer failing to meet performance obligations under HAMP. She was the one who found out that there had been only 21 second-lien modifications in HAMP up to that point. It was Waters who highlighted Bank of America shortchanging the US government in their settlements with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over repurchases, which led to continued litigation that lasts to this day. It was Waters who tried to get Brad Miller hired as executive director of the foreclosure fraud task force (sadly that accomplished little other than embarrassing people like Eric Schneiderman). Waters got Robert Khuzami to reveal that the task force was nothing more than a repository for existing cases and investigations with a public relations patina applied to them. This is all in the last two years. You can’t get a lot done in the minority, but Waters was certainly more aggressive on these issues than Barney Frank ever was.
The notable thing here is that Wall Street did not want Waters in that job. They were angling for Carolyn Maloney to leapfrog her. And yet that didn’t happen. Waters is a full-throated advocate for fairness and transparency in the financial industry, and now she’s the committee’s most powerful Democrat. The whisper campaign against her, both on corruption and basic competence, was particularly nasty. But in the end it amounted to naught. The DLC-heavy Democratic Party of yore would not have allowed Waters to become ranking Democrat, I don’t think. Heck, just having a woman at the top of the Financial Services Committee is an advance.
Obviously this would mean more if Waters got the chair. Jeb Hensarling, the new Chairman, isn’t likely to allow her much of a voice on the committee. But it positions her down the road if Democrats do manage to win back the chamber.