In the News
WASHINGTON — Just a day after the Dodd-Frank Act's fifth anniversary, Senate Banking Committee Richard Shelby launched a new attempt to make significant changes to the law, attaching his regulatory relief bill to legislation that would provide funding for financial services agencies.
A Senate Appropriations subcommittee approved the bill on Wednesday and the full panel is expected to vote on it Thursday.
The move marks a shift in tactics by Shelby. He had said he would negotiate with Democrats, who opposed the regulatory relief legislation when it passed the Banking Committee in May, in order to strike a bipartisan compromise.
"It's a shot across the bow to Democrats," said Ed Mills, a policy analyst at FBR Capital Markets. "It's saying, 'Look, if you are unwilling to work with us, we are going to do what we can.'"
The move is not unexpected, however. Shelby is the No. 2 Republican on the Appropriations Committee and observers have long speculated he would resort to using that process in an effort to pass regulatory relief.
On its own, the regulatory relief bill, which among other things would raise the level at which banks are considered systemically important and enact changes to the systemic designation process for nonbanks, lacks the necessary support to be brought up for consideration by the full Senate.
By attaching it to a separate appropriations bill that covers a number of agencies such as the Treasury and Judiciary departments — legislation that is typically considered more urgent because it funds the government — the hope is that many or all of these changes can be enacted. Republicans successfully used the appropriations process last year, for example, to water down a key swaps provision in Dodd-Frank, even though Democrats and President Obama opposed the change.
At the very least, the move appears designed to put pressure on Democrats to cut a deal on the regulatory relief bill.
"The threat of appropriations is an attempt to force Democrats to the table," said Jaret Seiberg, an analyst with Guggenheim Securities. "This preserves the ability to use the appropriations process if broader negotiations fail."
Yet the tactic could also backfire as Democrats see the move as an underhanded way to weaken Dodd-Frank.
"The hope of finding that bipartisan compromise gets harder and harder when Democrats don't feel Republicans are acting in good faith as part of those negotiations," Mills said. "This emboldens Democrats."