Sen. Mike Crapo finally has arrived.
Actually, Crapo has been “there,” in the U.S. Senate, for almost 20 years. But his “arrival” came this year when he was elevated to a committee chairmanship, an assignment that many senators covet, but don’t always get.
Chairmanships don’t come cheaply. Senators must have longevity, the ability to work through the system and supreme knowledge of issues facing the committee. Along the way, senators at the top need to die or resign – or party control needs to change hands before a chairmanship becomes vacant.
The stars lined up right for Crapo, starting with Republicans keeping control of the Senate in last year’s elections. Then, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama took another committee chairmanship, making room for Crapo to take over as chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.
It’s a mouthful to say, and there are a lot of complicated issues to sort through. But Crapo, with his plodding style, tends to thrive on tedious work. Beyond that, he’s a nice guy, which is a trait not always found on Capitol Hill. He’s as conservative as they come in his rhetoric and voting record, but Democrats know that Crapo is approachable. In the more than 30 years I’ve known Crapo, starting from his days as a young state senator from Idaho Falls, he’s always tried to find a bipartisan “yes” on solutions. He’ll be working even harder in that regard as a committee chairman.
As the committee’s long name implies, the jurisdiction is wide. It includes insurance, housing, urban development and mass transit, international trade and finance, and a variety of economic policy issues. It’s sort of a catch-all committee.
On the banking front, Crapo well could be called the “steelhead” chairman. He’s swimming against the flow that finds large banks dominating the marketplace while small institutions struggle to survive. Crapo is looking to level the playing field through massive regulatory reform – not to shut down the big banks, but to give smaller institutions a fair shot. Democrat colleagues from rural states, such as Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio (the ranking member on that committee), can identify with Crapo’s cause.
“We have a real opportunity to enact meaningful legislative changes that can help to fuel economic growth – a key priority for Congress this year,” Crapo said.
He told Reuters in March that he hopes to have a bipartisan financial reform legislation in place by the end of this year, or early next year. “I’m not looking further than that,” he said.
Dodd-Frank, passed in 2010 in response to the banking crisis of 2007-08, has made life difficult for community banks and credit unions, which in this decade have gone out of business in droves. But Crapo’s reform plans are not limited to revamping Dodd-Frank.
“By issuing loans and other credit and capital products, businesses are able to grow their operations and hire more people,” Crapo says. “For families, these services are essential to saving for retirement or sending children to college and for every day needs.”
Crapo’s goal is clear. “We want our nation’s banks to be well capitalized and well regulated, without being drowned by persistently increasing compliance costs, which stifle broader economic growth and productivity. Our regulatory regime should be properly tailored to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach.”
Crapo, understandably, has wide support in Idaho. Michael Wolsten, assistant vice president of Idaho Central Credit Union – which has been a part of Idaho since 1940 – appreciates Crapo’s stand on credit unions. “Diversity is good for Idaho and the consumer. We’re excited to have a partnership with Sen. Crapo to make Idaho’s voices heard.”
Sen. Jeff Agenbroad of Nampa, who also is a vice president at Zions Bank, sees Crapo’s chairmanship as being good for the banking profession overall, and a nice political plum for Idaho.
“I certainly support Sen. Crapo across the board. He has represented Idaho well and has kept Idaho on the forefront of what he is doing,” Agenbroad says. “We have an understanding of him and he has an understanding of our environment.”
Agenbroad knows from his experience in the state Senate that legislative solutions don’t always move quickly, especially on complicated issues such as regulatory reform. “The uphill challenge is educating others who are making the decisions.”
But as Agenbroad and Wolsten see it, Crapo is up for the task.