Democratic House members won’t pick a successor to retiring Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) in the top spot on the House Financial Services Committee for a year, and it’s far from a sure thing that the member next in line, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), will get the nod.
She is currently the subject of an investigation by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct for having sought financial aid to a Boston community bank that had her husband on its board. There is no timetable for the panel to complete its investigation, and if the panel concludes there was any wrongdoing, it could reduce her chances to succeed Frank.
Waters is a supporter of credit unions and a co-sponsor of legislation to raise the cap on member business loans. At a recent hearing on a bank regulatory relief bill, she declared herself a supporter of credit unions and community banks and said she wanted both to do even more to spur job creation.
CUNA Senior Vice President Ryan Donovan said that Waters is “very supportive of what credit unions do in serving the underserved. We have a good relationship with her, and she’s always willing to listen.”
NAFCU Vice President Brad Thaler said while it is a it was too early to know who might become the top Democrat on the panel, Waters has had a good record on credit union issues. He also said that Waters has been keenly interested in issues surrounding government-sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and those issues will likely be top priorities for the panel.
Frank, who announced on Nov. 28 that he won’t seek re-election next year to the seat he has held since 1981, has been a supporter of Fannie and Freddie. However, there have been calls by members of both parties to overhaul the housing finance system in light of the problems with the GSEs that resulted in their being conserved by the federal government in 2008.
Frank’s best known achievement was last year’s financial overhaul bill. The Dodd-Frank bill passed mostly along party lines and was pushed by the Obama administration as part of its response to the financial crisis that it inherited. Congressional Republicans have said they want to repeal the measure, which they say imposes too much of a regulatory burden on businesses and stifles job creation. Even if lawmakers are successful in doing that, President Obama has vowed to veto any such measure.
However, if Republicans keep control of the House, gain a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and win the White House, the law could be in trouble.
Decisions about the chair or ranking minority members of committees are made by the Democrats’ Steering and Policy Committee usually during the lame duck session that follows an election. The full Democratic caucus must ratify the decision.
If the panel decides to bypass Waters, next in line is Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who is also supportive of credit unions. She was the key author of legislation that Congress passed in 2009 overhauling credit card rules, including requiring additional disclosures to consumers.
After Maloney, the next ranking member is Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who has been interested in issues relating to serving the underserved.
Donovan said it is possible the Democrats could circumvent seniority and go with Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), who is the No. 6 Democrat on the panel.
“Any discussion of possible successors [to Frank] that doesn’t include Watt would be incomplete. He is regarded by many as one of the members on the same par intellectually as is Frank,” Donovan said.
Gutierrez, Maloney and Watt have all received campaign contributions from credit union political action committees. None is a co-sponsor of the legislation to raise the cap on member business loans.
Frank became the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee after losing his chairmanship when his party lost the majority last year. He was chairman from 2007 to 2011.
The areas of the Dodd-Frank bill with the greatest impact on credit unions are the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the granting of the power to regulate interchange fees to the Federal Reserve.
The CFPB, an independent agency housed in the Fed, is mandated by the bill to issue at least 24 sets of rules, according to an analysis by the law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell. All credit unions have to comply with the bureau's rules and regulations, but the bureau itself only handles the enforcement at credit unions with assets of more than $10 billion. During Frank’s tenure, he’s expressed support for the work of credit unions and said that if all financial institutions had acted as responsibly as most credit unions did there would not probably have been a financial crisis.