Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) seemed a lot like Jimmy Stewart’s Mr. Smith as he fought the Republican establishment in the House of Representatives in Washington to include the repeal of the Durbin amendment in the Financial Choice Act of 2017— the legislation designed to reform the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that’s proven damaging for small businesses and consumers and a financial boon for big businesses and banks.
Budd, a freshman member and former small gun shop owner, spoke out in favor of including in the Choice Act the repeal of Dodd-Frank’s Durbin Amendment, which put price caps on debit and credit card transactions. He lost the battle — Republican leadership stripped the repeal from the pending legislation.
But he still hopes to win the war being waged against him by traditionally conservative, free-market advocates, including retail lobbyists.
“The retailers’ decision to run attack ads against a freshman member that has already been targeted by Nancy Pelosi is puzzling,” Budd told Breitbart News. “The fact that I am a former retailer makes the decision even stranger.
One of those attacks came by way of an email sent by Austen Jensen, vice president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association.
“During the whip check this week on the Choice Act, we ask that you have your Member tell House GOP Leadership to remove the divisive debit swipe-fee provision from the base text of H.R. 10,” Jensen wrote, referring to the Durbin amendment. “This action will insulate and protect your member from having to choose between two key constituencies in their districts.”
Budd’s office responded in an analysis of the campaign: “A whip check is when members of House Republican leadership count votes for a bill. What the retailers are asking for is the provision repealing the Durbin Amendment in the Financial Choice Act to be stripped in a backroom deal using a procedural tactic without the House ever taking a vote.”
“Political intimidation is not going to stop me from fighting for free market principles,” Budd told Breitbart News, citing the fact that the Durbin amendment in the Dodd-Frank law had many unintended consequences that should have been remedied in the Choice Act.
Freedom House, for example, supports the bill but wanted the Durbin amendment to be repealed in the legislation because of the impact it has had in the financial marketplace.
“For example, in February 2016, a report by the Credit Union National Association found that credit unions had lost about $1.1 billion because of that amendment,” a Freedom House publication states. “Also, the number of business checking accounts declined, which gave retailers fewer choices to choose from for services.
“Community banks also saw compliance costs increase despite receiving an “exemption,” the publication states. “Overall, it seems the Durbin amendment was a bust for both consumers and small financial institutions alike.”
The exception to that harm is large retailers, according to Freedom House.
“That’s not to say everyone saw declines from this legislation. Large retailers actually saw their profits increase by about $8 billion despite the fact that prices have not change,” Freedom House reported. “Keeping in mind this amendment was implemented six years ago, that is about $42 billion a year in increased profit made at the expense of consumers and financial institutions.”
Budd also wrote a letter, quoted in part below, to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which includes House leadership, expressing his concern on the legislation and the attacks on what he considered to be a conservative stance on the matter.
“I am writing to you today to highlight efforts being made by the National Retail Federation to harm my 2018 re-election campaign and in turn, Republican control of the House of Representatives,” Budd wrote in the May 31 letter.
“As someone who was a retailer before being elected to Congress, I understand that the only party supporting the free market principles, tax cuts, and limited government necessary for our economy to thrive is the Republican Party,” Budd said. “That is why I ran as a Republican and in turn, why it is so concerning that the National Retail Federation has chosen to take this course of action against me.
“As a freshman member of Congress in a district that has already been targeted by Nancy Pelosi and put on the DCCC target list, it is eye opening to see this kind of behavior in response to my opposition for a price control policy that was spearheaded by a liberal Senator and passed by Democrats.
“To have the first paid ads against me come not from the Democratic Party or some liberal organization, but from a group that I would traditionally consider an ally, and whose convention I have previously attended in my capacity as a retailer, is puzzling at best and sets a dangerous precedent at worst,” Budd wrote.
Budd also has supporters, including the Electronic Payments Coalition.
“Rep. Budd proved once again today that he is an individual willing to stand up for free market principles and consumers,” said Molly Wilkinson, executive director of EPC. “The congressman highlighted the fact that big box merchants have broken their promises, keeping nearly $42 billion in savings from the Durbin amendment that they had promised to the American people, and harming community financial institutions in the process.”
“It is of the utmost importance that the Financial CHOICE passes Congress with the repeal of the Durbin amendment fully intact,” Freedom House reported. “It has increased costs for smaller banks, consumers, and limited options and benefits for both as well.
“The increased revenue given would lead to increased job growth, consumption, and competition for retailers, which would be good for the economy,” Freedom House reported.
The House will debate the Choice Act this week and a vote is also expected.