Over the course of a two-day markup of Republican fiscal year 2016 budgetary priorities in the financial services sector, Financial Services Committee Democrats fought back against a Republican effort to eliminate taxpayer protections and undermine the social safety net.
Led by Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-CA), Democrats fiercely opposed rampant mischaracterizations of critical federal agencies and initiatives, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Section 8 public housing program, and similar measures vital to expanding opportunities for more Americans.
Democrats put Republicans on the defensive, offering more than a dozen amendments to the Republican “Budget Views and Estimates” document, including amendments designed to address an ever-widening wealth gap and persistent diversity issues at federal financial regulatory agencies and the upper echelons of the financial services industry. In addition, Democratic members pushed initiatives to create jobs, ensure a strong and stable financial system, and protect consumers and the savings of working Americans.
Waters offered an amendment designed to highlight the broad-based generational and systematic inequities that continue to hamper progress and opportunity for tens of millions of Americans, especially lower income Americans and communities of color.
The top Democrat also offered an amendment requesting full funding support for one of Wall Street’s most important cops, the Securities Exchange Commission.
Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance, submitted an amendment calling for full funding of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) rental and homeless assistance programs. Despite several assertions by Republicans that the housing programs do not work, Democrats countered with a stirring series of rebuttals, underscoring how public housing lifted them up out of poverty and helped them get where they are today in the halls of Congress.
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) offered an amendment to allocate $4.1 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program, a proven job creator and incentive for private sector economic development in our nation’s most vacant and underserved areas. Further, Kildee proposed an amendment urging full funding for the Housing Trust Fund and highlighting the important role it plays in tackling severe shortages of desperately-needed housing units.
Reps. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) submitted amendments to protect the integrity of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CPFB), by keeping its funding stream out of the highly politicized appropriations process, where it would be subject to special interest influence. To date, the CPFB has provided more than $5 billion in relief directly to 15 million Americans since its establishment. The amendments underscore the importance of keeping funding independent for the only agency charged with safeguarding American consumers from predatory financial products.
Reps. Denny Heck (D-WA), Gwen Moore (D-WI) and Waters put forward an amendment acknowledging the importance the Administration has placed on the renewal of the Export-Import Bank’s charter. The amendment urges “regular order,” which provides the opportunity to hear from all members on the issue, review reforms already implemented by the Bank, and discuss any other reforms needed to ensure that the Bank continues to fulfill its mission supporting the expansion of home-grown businesses and the creation of more U.S. jobs from exports. Set to expire in June, 2015, renewal of the Ex-Im Bank is supported by a majority of Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
While Republicans voted down all of these amendments in a party line vote, three amendments were adopted, including two amendments from Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH) adding language in support of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion and the Section 8 public housing program. Rep. Stephen Lynch’s (D-MA) amendment backing full funding for the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a critical tool in deterring money laundering schemes within our financial system, and combatting financing for terrorist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram, was also adopted.
The markup sent a strong statement to the majority that over the coming Congress, Democrats will forcefully challenge any effort to weaken or undermine consumer protections and programs that help our most vulnerable populations, create jobs, spur opportunity and revitalize communities struggling to recover from the devastating effects of the recent financial crisis.