Major banking group sides with Senate in Dodd-Frank overhaul

WASHINGTON — Leading banking groups called on House leaders Monday to accept Senate-passed legislation easing financial rules adopted after the 2008 economic crisis.

The effort is designed to push lawmakers away from a showdown that could derail efforts aimed at revamping the law known as Dodd-Frank.

Each chamber has already passed its own legislation on scaling back Dodd-Frank, but lawmakers disagree on how to move forward and pass a final version this year. The bank groups weighing in Monday would seemingly give senators more leverage in the negotiations.

In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the American Bankers Association said it supports the desire among House Republicans to do more than what was passed in the Senate, but it believes the Senate bill will "make a very real difference to community banks across the country."

The group called on the House to "move on" the Senate bill quickly and take up other House proposals later. State banking associations made a similar plea, calling on the House "to immediately take up and pass" the Senate bill.

The Senate's proposed overhaul of Dodd-Frank was more modest than the House effort and gained support from 16 Democrats and one independent senator, a rarity for major legislation. Meanwhile, individual Democratic senators were threatening not to go along with any significant changes to the Senate bill.

"I hope they understand that if we're going to get this all the way through that it needs to be based on the Senate version, which has been heavily negotiated with the House and Senate," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. "I would not accept anything more than technical changes."

The Senate bill targets relief for all but the biggest banks in the U.S. It would increase the threshold at which banks are considered so big and plugged into the financial grid that a failure would cause major havoc. Lawmakers are intent on loosening the capital and planning requirements for those banks in hopes that they will boost lending and the economy.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said he had a list of about 30 bills passed in committee or by the full House that he wanted to be considered for the final bill.

"The House will be heard, and we expect not only to have a bipartisan bill but a bicameral bill," Hensarling said in an interview just before lawmakers left for their Easter recess.

The American Bankers Association was sure to praise Hensarling for his work even as it called for passage of the Senate bill. The association said Hensarling and the House Financial Services Committee, which he oversees, had considerable influence on the final bill passed in the Senate.

The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending, calls the American Bankers Association one of the most powerful lobbying groups on Capitol Hill. It said the group spent nearly $11.7 million on lobbying activities last year, placing it in the top 25 among more than 3,400 entities. The group has also donated about $1.5 million to candidates and political action committees this election cycle. A little more than two-thirds of that money flows to GOP candidates.

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