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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