Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Executive News: Still waiting

As this issue of the Oklahoma Banker goes to press, we’re no further along than we were last month on getting regulatory relief for traditional community banks over the goal line.

But it’s not without hope. I think.

The delay is being caused by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), who chairs the House Financial Services Committee. I’m told he has 30 or so amendments he’s trying to offer for consideration and if any of them are added to S. 2155, that pretty much means it’s dead. Again. The Senate Democrats will not agree to any changes in this carefully constructed bipartisan bill.

Mr. Hensarling is understandably concerned about being just a “rubber stamp” for the Senate. He also wants the House to have a major part in getting this bill finalized, and I understand that. I get his “politics.”

Photo of Roger M. Beverage
Roger Beverage, OBA President and CEO

But the truth is, he’s already had a huge impact on shaping the final version of this bipartisan compromise that resulted in Senate passage of the bill. Virtually all of Title I and Title II are a direct result of the chairman’s actions in the House and in getting his version of regulatory relief (H.R. 10) passed, first through the Committee and then through the House.

I’d love to have his bill pass and signed into law. I wish it were possible, but it’s not. The political reality is H.R. 10 can never pass the Senate given it’s present makeup of Republicans and Democrats, assuming the filibuster rule is not suspended or eliminated. There wouldn’t be 67 votes for his bill. There might not even be 50.

It’s a bit like Sen. Warren’s position of opposing S. 2155 because she says it benefits the “big banks.” Even though this is the only bill in the last eight years that has been advanced in the Senate, and in spite of her promises to me and to others about her “support” for community banks, she’s the tip of the spear in opposing this otherwise bipartisan effort. She’s even attacking members of her own party, for Pete’s sake!

Legislation has historically come about through compromise, through working together, advancing the ball in bits and pieces. Nobody always gets all they want – unless of course they have 60-plus votes in the Senate, control the House and the president is of the same party as the majority. But that’s not the norm, ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank notwithstanding.

Reality is this bill is the only one moving with meaningful regulatory reform for traditional community banks and credit unions. It will help every bank and every credit union in Oklahoma. More importantly, it will help millions of consumers. How? Because they will now have access to credit for which they do not qualify today.

Access to credit for homeowners and small businesses will benefit mightily because of some of the provisions in Titles I and II. I know it’s not perfect. But it’s all we have, and it’s all we’re going to get in the 115th Congress.

In such a circumstance I would normally expect people to overcome their concerns and keep their promises to help community banks. Sen. Warren did not and will not, preferring instead to play to her base of supporters.

Chairman Hensarling has also promised to support regulatory relief for community banks. Well Mr. Chairman, with all due respect, you have contributed mightily to Titles I and II, which will help Texas community banks and credit unions. What’s more important, your leadership and persistence will help millions of Texas consumers. All you have to do is let the Senate version get to the House floor and we’re good to go.

But in both cases, it’s apparently their respective preference to focus on what’s important to them personally or politically or both, not what’s best for consumers who do business with traditional community banks and small credit unions across the country.

I remember one time when I met with Chairman Hensarling, along with a handful of my colleagues, about regulatory relief. When it came to talking about what Sen. Warren would do to a regulatory relief bill targeted at community banks, my colleagues turned to me and asked me to tell the chairman about my former relationship with her.

I told him, “Sen. Warren and I have talked about the need for such a bill, and she promised me …” at which point the chairman laughed out loud. He said, “Yeah, she’s promised me a lot of things, but she never comes through.”

I tried to defend her, without success I might add as the chairman was having none of it, and that was the end of the discussion. It was quite a letdown, but not nearly as much of a disappointment as Sen. Warren’s actions and statements relating to S. 2155.

I’m returning to Washington at the end of this month with a small group of Oklahoma bankers and our “ask” of the delegation is to do everything possible to help us move S. 2155 through the House, AS IS, with no amendments. Meanwhile, my prayer is simple: “Please Lord, do not let the chairman or anyone else snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with respect to this bill.”

One thing is certain. If this bill does not pass the House and get signed into law, bankers across the country will hang that failure around the neck of every Republican they can find, especially current members of the House. That banker reaction may not be enough to flip the House to Democrat control, but it will be close.

I hope it doesn’t even remotely come close to that. Stay tuned.