The baseball philosopher Yogi Berra said "it ain't over 'til it's over."
Anyone watching the Senate battle over Wall Street reform knows that. And despite falling behind to Main Street in the early innings, the banks continue to flood Congress with cash and still have a few big-hitting amendments left on their bench.
One of their top power-hitters is an amendment that would defeat the ability of states to enforce the law. The banks have said that this is their main goal. The vehicle is the Carper (D-DE) amendment, which is nothing more than a stealth attempt to undermine consumer protection, taken straight from the bank lobbyists' playbook.
Senators who care more about protecting consumers from bank abuses than they care about protecting banks that are violating the law should oppose this amendment. Earlier this year, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan explained (PDF) to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission exactly why the states need their local "cops on the beat" - because "federal regulators took unprecedented steps to shield national lenders and their subsidiaries from state enforcement and from the growing number of state anti-predatory lending laws on the books."
The Carper amendment is opposed by U.S. Public Interest Research Group, by the broad Americans for Financial Reform coalition, by the White House, and by many state attorneys general, as this recent bipartisan letter (PDF) makes clear.
Here are some of the other big hitters the banks still have on their bench -
- First, the notorious Pentagon-opposed Brownback (R-KS) #3789-3790 amendments to eliminate Consumer Financial Production Bureau (CFPB) authority over what the New York Times calls "shady" car dealer practices that harm consumers and military families could occur Monday night.
- Also waiting is the Cornyn (R-TX) amendment #3894 to strip forced arbitration reform proposals from the bill. Banks don't want either state attorneys general or consumers to have the right to enforce the law.
- Also, the Snowe (R-ME)-Pryor (D-AR) amendment #3883 that masquerades as a small business helper, but in reality is a CFPB killer.
But holding onto a strong consumer agency isn't the only remaining hurdle between now and getting a good package of reforms that are in the public interest to the White House. The banks continue to oppose reforms designed to limit taxpayer exposure to their casino-like derivatives bets. They also are pulling out all the stops to block the Merkley (D-OR)-Levin (D-MI) amendment to strengthen protections for taxpayers against risk posed by non-bank financial firms and also prohibit Goldman-style bets against clients.
Recently, when Steven Colbert asked Professor Elizabeth Warren why we need a new agency on top of all the other regulators -- "Isn't that just a belt and suspenders?" -- she replied: "Right now, we don't have any pants on." No, we don't. That is why Main Street needs strong financial reform.
Yet, incredibly, the Wall Street emperors who wear no clothes at all continue to parade around Washington claiming that the worst financial collapse since 1929 wasn't their fault, so don't reform their practices.
The Restoring American Financial Stability Act, S. 3217, should be strengthened, not weakened. It must include a strong, independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency, must allow states and their attorneys general to enforce the laws, must open the shadow markets where derivatives are traded, and must end, once and for all, Wall Street's ability to rely on "too big to fail."
Only then will this ballgame be over.
All amendments from the US Senate Financial Reform debate are being tracked and scored by U.S. PIRG. Click here to see how your Senator has voted.
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