Wall Street and the big banks — and their lobbyists and allies in Congress — couldn't stop the new financial watchdog, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), but they're doing everything they can to remove its teeth.
On Monday, the House Budget Committee considered a bill that would strip the new consumer agency of its independence by allowing pure politics — and Wall Street lobbyists — to control its funding.
It's no surprise why Wall Street, the big bank lobbyists, and their allies keep trying to weaken the consumer agency. To date, the CFPB has showed tremendous promise — designing a simplified mortgage agreement, finding a way to mow down some of the fine print in credit cards, and drafting a stronger disclosure that would expose some of the tricks in student loans. And it has started regular investigation of major lenders to make certain they follow the law.
If the latest bill passes, it will weaken the consumer agency and undermine its ability to enforce the laws and hold big banks accountable. The agency, like every other banking watchdog, has independent funding to protect against influence-peddling and lobbying from large financial institutions. Everyone understands that regulators can't be worried if they offend some big bank they could cause the agency to lose its funding in an intensely-lobbied funding fight. In fact, independence has been such a bedrock principle that Congress has provided for independent funding for bank supervisors for more than a century. Now the big banks and their friends in Congress want to take that independence away.
After the crash of 2008, America had to make a decision about what sort of financial system we wanted: a poorly regulated system where lenders could continue the abuses that brought our economy to its knees, or a more stable system with fairer rules and a level playing field for middle class families.
The nation had an open and noisy debate over financial reform. Congress deliberated and eventually voted to create a strong agency with the tools it needed to protect consumers. In a David vs. Goliath legislative fight, David won — America's hard-working middle class families scored a major victory.
But now, the fight over the consumer agency's future has moved from an open debate to the back halls where lobbyists and big banks are lurking, waiting for another chance to attack the new agency. The backdoor attempts to weaken consumer protection and water down oversight are wrong. If Congress really cares about protecting middle class families — and the health of our entire economy — it should reject the latest proposal. That is what I would do as a United States Senator.
Middle class families in Massachusetts and around our country deserve a strong and effective financial watchdog. I am proud to have been a part of the fight that led to the creation of the CFPB, but the latest efforts in Congress are a harsh reminder that the fight isn't over.