Here They Come Again
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Here They Come Again

Wall Street Strong Arms the Senate; Lawmakers Ready to Roll Back Bank Regulations

Bankers’ holiday. The Senate is preparing to scale back the sweeping banking regulations passed after the 2008 financial crisis, with more than a dozen Democrats ready to give Republicans the votes they need to weaken one of former President Barack Obama’s largest legislative achievements.

The core of the new bill exempts about two dozen financial companies with assets between $50 billion and $250 billion from the highest levels of scrutiny by the Federal Reserve, the nation’s central bank.

Protesting the kid-glove treatment of banks after the 2008-2009 financial panic.

Supporters argue that the legislation would bring much-needed relief to midsize and regional banks that were treated like their much larger counterparts under the 2010 legislation known as Dodd-Frank. Opponents say it would weaken the oversight needed to stave off the type of dangerous lending and investing that brought the U.S. economy to its knees.

Congress’s appetite for pulling back bank regulations shows the renewed clout of the financial sector in Washington, not just in the GOP but also among Democrats.

“On the 10th anniversary of an enormous financial crash, Congress should not be passing laws to roll back regulations on Wall Street banks,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said in an interview. “The bill permits about 25 of the 40 largest banks in America to escape heightened scrutiny and to be regulated as if they were tiny little community banks that could have no impact on the economy.”

EPA swamped. Trump on Friday tapped a chemical industry insider to run the Environmental Protection Agency office that oversees emergency response to hazardous spills and cleanups of the nation’s most toxic sites. The White House nominated Peter C. Wright to serve as EPA’s assistant administrator for Land and Emergency Management. Wright has worked as a corporate lawyer at Dow Chemical Co. since 1999. Despite Trump’s campaign pledges to “drain the swamp” in Washington, Wright’s nomination is the latest example of the president appointing corporate lawyers or lobbyists to supervise federal offices that directly regulate their former employers.

Trade chaos. The White House continued to sow uncertainty about the stiff tariffs Trump said he would impose on steel and aluminum imports as key advisers defended the policy but left room for Trump to change his plans. Peter Navarro, an adviser and the architect of many of Trump’s campaign trade promises, confirmed on Sunday that the administration would not exclude any country from the tariffs but said individual companies could apply for exemptions for certain products. Trump, meanwhile, engaged in a weekend-long tweet storm defending his policies and saying the United States had been on the “losing side” of global trade deals for too long.

Featured image: CEOs of top banks testify before Congress in 2009.

March 5, 2018