NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

U.S. House passes “Citibill” to partially roll back the Dodd-Frank Reform Act

Once again, some­thing is rot­ten in the peo­ple’s House.

Ear­li­er today, the Repub­li­can-con­trolled U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives vot­ed two hun­dred and nine­ty-two to one hun­dred and twen­ty-two to pass H.R. 992, offi­cial­ly titled the Swaps Reg­u­la­to­ry Improve­ment Act. Like MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, we’re call­ing H.R. 992 Citibill because it was pri­mar­i­ly authored by Cit­i­group lob­by­ists.

It would repeal a key pro­vi­sion of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act, enact­ed into law in 2010, that for­bids banks from using insured deposits for deriv­a­tives trad­ing (also known as finan­cial gam­bling).

Sad­ly, sev­en­ty Democ­rats, includ­ing sev­er­al from the Pacif­ic North­west, joined all but three Repub­li­cans in vot­ing for this trav­es­ty. Why? Why would sev­en­ty Democ­rats vote for a bill writ­ten by Wall Street lob­by­ists to ben­e­fit Wall Street?

Well, this is why:

House aides, when asked why Democ­rats would vote for this pro­pos­al even though the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion oppos­es it, offered a polit­i­cal expla­na­tion. Repub­li­cans have enough votes to pass it them­selves, so vul­ner­a­ble House Democ­rats might as well join them, and col­lect indus­try mon­ey for their cam­paigns.

“It is a free vote,” one aide explained Mon­day.

Empha­sis is mine.

Is it any won­der ordi­nary Amer­i­cans are fed up with Con­gress? Law­mak­ers con­tin­ue to demon­strate that they care more about serv­ing the wealthy and the pow­er­ful than their con­stituents. One in two mem­bers of Con­gress is a mil­lion­aire. Most Amer­i­cans can only dream about hav­ing that kind of wealth.

It costs a lot of mon­ey to run cam­paigns these days, espe­cial­ly in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Cor­po­ra­tions Unit­ed deci­sion, which opened the flood­gates for shad­owy front groups to oper­ate anony­mous­ly on behalf of pow­er­ful, wealthy donors, spend­ing big bucks to buy elec­tions. It’s sad that many law­mak­ers seem more pre­oc­cu­pied with run­ning for reelec­tion than gov­ern­ing.

This includes Democ­rats as well as Repub­li­cans, though it’s worth not­ing that most of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus did vote no on on Citibill, where­as only three Repub­li­cans cast no votes. (The dis­sent­ing Repub­li­cans were Thomas Massie of Ken­tucky, John Dun­can of Ten­nessee, and Wal­ter Jones of North Car­oli­na).

With the excep­tion of House Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cau­cus Chair Xavier Becer­ra, Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­er­ship either did not vote on the bill (Leader Nan­cy Pelosi, DCCC Chair­man Steve Israel) or vot­ed for it (Whip Ste­ny Hoy­er, Assis­tant Leader James Clyburn).

The roll call from the Pacif­ic North­west was as fol­lows:

Vot­ing Aye: Democ­rats Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Den­ny Heck (WA), Earl Blu­me­nauer and Kurt Schrad­er (OR); Repub­li­cans Doc Hast­ings, Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers, Dave Reichert (WA), Greg Walden (OR), Raul Labrador and Mike Simp­son (ID), Steve Daines (MT), Don Young (AK)

Vot­ing Nay: Democ­rats Suzan Del­Bene, Jim McDer­mott, Adam Smith (WA), Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Pete DeFazio (OR)

Not Vot­ing: Repub­li­can Jaime Her­rera-Beut­ler (WA)

Only five rep­re­sen­ta­tives from our region — all Democ­rats — had the courage to stand up to Wall Street and reject Citibill. We’re proud to see Suzan Del­Bene’s name in the no col­umn, as she rep­re­sents NPI’s home con­gres­sion­al dis­trict. We’re also glad to see that Adam Smith also joined Jim McDer­mott in cast­ing a no vote.

But we are incred­i­bly dis­ap­point­ed in Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Den­ny Heck, Earl Blu­me­nauer and Kurt Schrad­er. This vote is a black mark against all five of them. We’re used to Repub­li­cans doing Wall Street’s bid­ding; we expect any­one who calls him or her­self a Demo­c­rat to have more integri­ty than that.

Accord­ing to Map­light, Wall Street is the top source of cam­paign cash for six out of Citibil­l’s eight cospon­sors. What’s more, Wall Street has giv­en near­ly six times more mon­ey to the rep­re­sen­ta­tives who vot­ed for the bill than the rep­re­sen­ta­tives who vot­ed against. That is not a coin­ci­dence: mon­ey talks.

Citibill may not have much of a future in the U.S. Sen­ate. Pre­sum­ably it will be referred to the Sen­ate Bank­ing Com­mit­tee and/or Sen­ate Finance Com­mit­tee. Sen­a­tors Maria Cantwell, Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley, and Eliz­a­beth War­ren sit on those com­mit­tees, and we’re con­fi­dent they will make sure this awful leg­is­la­tion gets the neg­a­tive recep­tion that it deserves.

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