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Waters Blasts Underhanded Attacks on Critical Consumer Protection Agency

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Washington, DC, April 21, 2015 | comments

As the House considers H.R. 1195, legislation related to advisory boards at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Financial Services, lamented yet another underhanded attempt by the Republican majority to undermine the consumer watchdog by significantly cutting its budget.

As originally written, the once-bipartisan measure would codify two of the advisory boards that CFPB voluntarily created to address the concerns of community banks and credit unions – while also creating a new Small Business Advisory Board.

However, Republicans slipped an 11th hour amendment into the legislation after it passed the Financial Services Committee that funds the proposal with significant cuts to the CFPB’s budget. The amendment, offered by Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, limited the amount of funding that the Bureau may request from the Federal Reserve, cutting the CFPB’s budget by about $45 million over the next 5 years and by $100 million over the next ten years.

Waters led opposition to the measure on the House floor, blasting Republicans for undercutting the CFPB’s efforts to protect consumers. She also pointed out the irony of House Republicans expressing concern about the estimated $9 million in costs of this measure, after waiving their own budgetary rules a total of 19 times since 2011. In some instances, those waivers cost billions of dollars – such as last week’s estate tax repeal, which affects only 0.2% of the population and would cost $269 billion.

Full text of Waters’ floor remarks is below.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I rise today in opposition to H.R. 1195 – a measure that is a shining example of how far Republicans will go to squander compromise, consensus, and good faith to advance an ideological, anti-consumer agenda.

The bill before us today is just the latest instance of Financial Services Committee Republicans snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. It makes clear their commitment to do all they can to undercut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – an agency with an extraordinary record of success protecting consumers, reining in bad actors, and ensuring that we do not return to the predatory practices that put this nation on the verge of economic collapse less than 10 years ago.

Mr. Chairman, as originally written, H.R. 1195 was a good and decent measure offered by my colleague, Mr. Heck from Washington State – and I applaud him for his leadership.

The straightforward proposal offered by Mr. Heck would codify two of the advisory boards that the CFPB voluntarily created related to community banks and credit unions – while also creating a new Small Business Advisory Board for small businesses. Along with many other requirements of the Bureau, these boards create additional avenues for input from the entities they have been given the power to regulate under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act.

In a rare show of bipartisanship, the Financial Services Committee passed H.R. 1195 by a vote 53 to 5. I and many of my Democratic colleagues supported the proposal, just as we have supported the many efforts of the CFPB to be responsive to the unique needs of small businesses, community banks, and credit unions. But as usual, that bipartisanship was short lived – as Chairman Hensarling added an amendment designed to pay for this measure by undermining the CFPB’s authority and independent funding.

I find it ironic that this House has determined now is the time to offset the cost of legislation.

Just last week, the House Majority voted to repeal the estate tax without paying for it – at a staggering cost of $269 billion. At a time when far too many Americans are struggling with stagnant wages and historic income inequality, my Republican counterparts seem all too willing to add to the nation’s deficit in order to pass giveaways for the richest point 0.2 % of Americans.

Yet when it comes to a reasonable bill to enhance the voice of small businesses, community banks and credit unions, the Republicans insist that the only way to pass the legislation is by cutting the CFPB – an agency that 84 percent of small business owners support, according to polling from the Small Business Majority.

The truth of the matter is that after several years of attempting to cap CFPB funding, the Republicans have chosen to transform Mr. Heck’s bill into a vehicle to make drastic cuts to the CFPB’s budget.

While my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will claim otherwise, the CFPB itself estimates Chairman Hensarling’s poison pill amendment will cut its budget by about $45 million over the next 5 years and by $100 million over the next ten years – capping it at substantially less than the amount that they are currently able to request. And that means this vote is one to weaken an agency with the explicit mission of standing up for consumers and taxpayers who have been subject to the deceptive practices of unscrupulous corporations.

The Chairman’s amendment guarantees that this otherwise bipartisan proposal will never become law – garnering significant opposition in the Senate – and a veto threat from the Obama Administration, who said this measure was “solely intended to impede the CFPB's ability to carry out its mission of protecting consumers in the financial markets” and “could result in, among other things, undermining critical protections for families from abusive and predatory financial products.”

Mr. Chairman, Republicans could have chosen any number of offsets to account for the cost of this proposal or – as they have done so many times before – waive their “cutgo” rules. Make no mistake about the intent of the Hensarling Amendment – it is designed to back Democrats into a corner by attaching an unacceptable provision cutting the CFPB’s budget to a proposal that Democrats supported in Committee.

The important work of the CFPB will not be undermined on our watch, and this backdoor attempt to cut its budget sets a dangerous precedent of using bipartisan bills as a way to sneak through measures that undermine the Bureau’s independence and its ability to protect consumers.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.”


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