Tags: Congress | Shutdown | Victory | Big Banks

Congress Deal to Avoid Shutdown Includes Victory for Big Banks

Wednesday, 10 December 2014 07:51 AM

Congress will vote this week on a $1.1 trillion spending plan that would avert a U.S. government shutdown as Democrats agreed to roll back rules affecting banks, clean water and rest for truckers.

The deal was announced late Tuesday after Democrats accepted Republican demands to undo some regulations including the banking provision, a big victory for Wall Street. It lets JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and other lenders keep swaps trading in units with federal backstops.

The measure is a compromise “that can and should have wide bipartisan support,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican, said in a statement. “Passage of this bill will show our people that we can and will govern responsibly.”

While Democrats aren’t happy about the policy changes, they said they beat back dozens of other provisions that Republicans had sought.

“This agreement means no government shutdown and no government on autopilot,” said Senate Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, a Democrat who negotiated the plan with Rogers.

The House plans to vote on the measure Dec. 11, said a leadership aide who spoke on condition of anonymity. Congress would have to enact a stopgap plan if the Senate doesn’t pass the bill on the same day, when current government funding ends. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said the Senate may need to work through the weekend.

Immigration Policy

The agreement on the spending bill allows Republican leaders to clear their agenda to advance other items next year when they control the Senate and have an expanded House majority. It also sets up a confrontation over immigration policy in early 2015.

While most of the government would be funded through September 2015, the Department of Homeland Security would be financed only through Feb. 27. Republicans want to use that agency’s spending bill to defund President Barack Obama’s decision to ease deportation rules for millions of undocumented immigrants.

Last year, Republican efforts to defund Obama’s healthcare law led to a 16-day partial government shutdown. Since taking House control in 2010, Republicans have used a series of short-term spending bills to force deep spending cuts.

In addition to the Dodd-Frank measure on swaps trading, the new spending bill would allow exceptions to clean-water laws for agricultural refuse, and block funding for rules to tax and regulate marijuana in the District of Columbia.

Truck Drivers

It would roll back safety rules aimed at ensuring truck drivers get enough rest, ignoring the pleas of consumer activists and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The provision would temporarily suspend rules that took effect last year while a study is conducted about the number of trucks driven on congested roads. Under the change, truckers would be able to work as many as 82 hours a week.

Some Senate Democrats oppose the Dodd-Frank proposal, including Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Warren in a statement called the change “reckless.”

Lawmakers included the measure in the 2010 Dodd-Frank law to protect taxpayers against bank losses after souring derivatives trades spurred a U.S. rescue of the financial industry in 2008.

The Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency provided a two-year delay in 2013 as long as banks take reasonable steps to move swaps to affiliates that don’t benefit from federal deposit insurance and discount borrowing.

Risking Homes

Representative Maxine Waters, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, said in statement the measure would be “risking our homes, jobs and retirement savings once again.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in an e-mailed statement, “Until we review the final language we cannot make a determination about whether House Democrats can support this legislation, but I am hopeful.”

The policy disputes preview the partisan battles that will dominate Congress in 2015 when Republicans will control the Senate and have an expanded majority in the House.

Democrats agreed to the changes after fighting off a number of others. Those omitted include revisions to District of Columbia gun laws and six other Dodd-Frank-related policy proposals, according to a Democratic aide who sought anonymity to discuss the talks.

Environmental Rules

The aide said Democrats also headed off 25 changes to environmental regulations, including those governing greenhouse gases, fish and wildlife and ceiling fans as well as one blocking climate research.

“I strongly oppose several policy riders included in this final agreement, but I am pleased Democrats were able to eliminate many of the most damaging provisions,” said Nita Lowey of New York, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, in a statement.

Reid said earlier Tuesday that if the House included the District of Columbia marijuana provision in the bill, “it’s going to be hard to take it out over here. But I oppose it.”

The plan includes a proposal pushed by the National Rifle Association that lets gun manufacturers use lead to produce ammunition, and a labor provision exempting claim adjusters from overtime requirements during major disasters.

Pension Benefits

The measure would seek to shore up the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. by allowing some underfunded multiemployer pension plans to cut benefits. The provision reflects an agreement by House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, a Minnesota Republican, and senior Democrat George Miller, a California Democrat.

It also includes an extension until Oct. 1, 2015, of a ban on taxing Internet access. It would provide $5.4 billion in emergency funds to respond to the Ebola outbreak.

The Internal Revenue Service would get $10.9 billion, a 3 percent cut from last year and 12 percent below the administration’s request. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has said enforcement will suffer and that taxpayers will face longer telephone waiting times if the agency’s budget is cut.

The bill would prevent a pay increase for members of Congress and for Vice President Joe Biden. Also, it would prohibit the Bureau of Engraving and Printing from spending any money to redesign the $1 bill.

Lawmakers overcame the biggest risk to the spending bill last week as House Speaker John Boehner rejected Tea Party Republicans’ insistence on using it to defund Obama’s immigration orders. Instead, on Dec. 4 Boehner let members vent with a symbolic vote of disapproval.

Democratic votes probably will be needed for House passage as the spending measure is opposed by some Republicans who wanted to force a confrontation on immigration this month.

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Congress will vote this week on a $1.1 trillion spending plan that would avert a U.S. government shutdown as Democrats agreed to roll back rules affecting banks, clean water and rest for truckers.
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2014-51-10
Wednesday, 10 December 2014 07:51 AM
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