The United States Congress is highly polarized along partisan lines today.
Since the first of the year, Republicans have struggled to implement their major priorities, in particularly health care and tax reform, because of solid Democratic opposition.
But Idaho’s Republican Sen. Mike Crapo is making major progress on the complicated issue of financial regulatory reform. The measure is S.2155 and Crapo today has nine Senate Democrats as co-sponsors including former Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia).
This is the second significant bipartisan measure Crapo has been involved in this year. He was a significant driver of the bill to impose sanctions on Russia, which passed overwhelmingly earlier this year.
This bill is rewrite of portions of the 2010’s Dodd-Frank legislation, which was enacted after the 2008 financial crash. It subjected the nation’s financial institutions to heightened regulatory scrutiny in order to avoid a repeat of the 2008 near-meltdown.
The impact of Dodd-Frank’s provisions on smaller banks and credit unions have been a sore point for some time.
Many smaller institutions, including a bunch of Idaho entities, claim that the costs of compliance --- which were designed for the mega-banks -- are too heavy a burden for them. Some dispute the size of the burden, but this is clear: According to American Banker, the number of banks nationally has been cut by roughly a quarter in the years after the financial crisis. Here in Idaho we have seen one-third of Idaho’s banks snatched up by out-of-state institutions.
Crapo says: “The reforms included in our bill will modernize regulations in a way that makes sense for smaller financial institutions, benefitting consumers and encouraging economic growth. Relieved from some of the unnecessary regulatory burden that has been placed on them, Idaho’s banks will be able to dedicate more resources to serving their customers and communities.”
Some key regulatory relief provisions in S.2155:
- Exempts community banks with less than $10 billion in assets from global capital standards as long as the bank has sufficient assets.
- Raises the threshold for institutions deemed “systemically important financial institutions” and therefore subjected to heightened regulation by the Federal Reserve.
- Expands the number of banks eligible for a stretched-out 18-month examination cycle, reducing the cost of compliance for those institutions.
- Cuts overall reporting requirements for depository institutions with less than $5 billion in total consolidated assets.
- Exempts banks with less than $10 billion in total assets from burdensome rules meant for the ultra-large institutions that conduct significant investment activity.
Interestingly enough, the measure also includes a series of consumer-oriented elements:
- Provides one free year of fraud alerts for consumers impacted by the Wells Fargo scandal and the Equifax breach.
- Gives consumers one free credit freeze and unfreeze per year.
- Allows parents to turn on and off credit reporting for children under 18.
- Prevents mortgage companies from immediately kicking tenants out of their rentals if the landlord is foreclosed upon.
- Encourages banks to report suspicious behavior if seniors could be getting financially scammed.
One of Crapo’s cosponsors is Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D) who told Politico: “Our bill is an example of how if Democrats and Republicans can put partisanship aside and work together, we can reach real compromises that support the country.”
S.2155 is given a fair chance of passage given its wide bipartisan support.