Mitch McConnell Pivots from Gun Control to Banking Reform

Sen. Mitch McConnell (C) (R-KY) answers questions following a weekly policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on March 11, 2014 in Washington, DC. Also pictured (L-R) are Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/Getty

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), unable to move forward on gun control, pivoted towards passing legislation that would offer banks regulatory relief from the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act.

McConnell filed a procedural motion this week to start the debate to vote on a banking reform bill sponsored by Senate Banking Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID); the Senate will vote on the Crapo bill next week.

A Senate GOP aide suggested on Thursday that a bill strengthening background checks will go to a vote once Senate Democrats agree to let the bill come to the floor. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Chris Murphy (R-CT) sponsored the bill.

McConnell blamed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NYT) for blocking the gun control from moving to the Senate floor.

“We tried to get it cleared yesterday, but the Democratic leader objected,” McConnell said.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on Thursday argued that the bill could have serious due process issues; Paul argued that veterans with post-traumatic stress order (PTSD) could be blocked from purchasing firearms.

Paul charged, “You can’t take gun rights away in bulk. If you say, everyone that has PTSD that’s a veteran, all their data will be dumped into a database and it will show up on a background check, that’s a problem.”

“I’m for taking away gun rights from violent people but you have to do it one at a time, you can’t do it in bulk,” Paul added.

Crapo’s bill would remove onerous banking regulations for community banks and credit unions.  Most notably, the bill would raise the threshold that federal regulators would consider banks systemically risky to $250 billion in assets from $50 billion in assets.

Pundits expect the bill to become enacted into law sometime in the summer; 13 Senate Democrats backed the law, giving the Senate at least a 60-vote majority to pass the Crapo bill.

If the Senate were to pass the bill, Congress’ upper chamber would have to reconcile the differences with the House-passed Financial Choice Act. The Financial Choice Act more drastically overhauled the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. 

House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) also passed many smaller bills that would loosen other Dodd-Frank regulations.

Reports suggest that Sen. Crapo will consider adding some of the smaller House bills to his Senate banking bill to make it easier for the House to pass the Senate-banking reform legislation rather than go through the more arduous process of a reconciling the differencess between the two bills in a conference committee.

President Donald Trump has made repealing Dodd-Frank and loosening banking regulation part of his economic agenda. Trump reportedly supports the Crapo bill.

Dina Ellis Rochkind, a former Senate Banking Committee staffer, said, “Chairman Hensarling has done a good job at moving bipartisan pieces of legislation through the House, but it will be a difficult task to maintain that delicate balance in the Senate due to the Senate’s current composition.”

“Nonetheless, the Senate version of the legislation has a good chance of becoming law with a few changes from the House,” she added.

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