House panel approves strict curbs on financial institutions
Black caucus urges more minority aid
WASHINGTON - House Democrats cleared a crucial hurdle yesterday in their drive to expand the government’s power over Wall Street even as black lawmakers warned that they would use their votes as leverage to secure more economic aid to African-American communities.
The House Financial Services Committee voted to slap new restraints on big Wall Street institutions and to demand greater openness from the Federal Reserve, setting the stage for final passage next week on a broader and sweeping piece of regulatory legislation.
The committee approved the measure 31 to 27 along party lines. The 10 members of the Congressional Black Caucus on the panel, all Democrats, boycotted the vote.
“Since last September, we have continuously voted for bailout and reform for the very institutions that created this devastation, without properly protecting the African-American community or small business,’’ Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, said at a post-vote news conference. “That stops today.’’
Waters said black caucus members have had to educate Obama administration officials and the White House inner circle about the struggles in African-American communities, where unemployment far exceeds the already high national average.
Among the group’s demands were greater assistance for minority-owned auto dealerships, greater assistance to banks that lend in African-American communities, and more government advertising in minority-owned media.
The black caucus’s warning comes just days before the House begins debate on a comprehensive regulatory overhaul. That package, set to go to the floor on Wednesday, would include the creation of a consumer finance protection agency, restrictions on complex financial instruments blamed for feeding last year’s panic, and restrictions on Wall Street compensation.
Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, said he expected the bill to be debated for three days before final passage.
Waters would not spell out what kind of progress lawmakers would need to see to guarantee their vote. House leaders were scrambling to assemble a jobs bill, and President Obama was holding a jobs “summit’’ today to air ideas on how to fight unemployment.
“One jobs summit at the White House does not solve the problem,’’ Waters said. “He still has more to do.’’
The legislation approved yesterday focused on how to monitor large financial institutions and how to restrain them if they pose a risk to the economy, or dismantle them if they fail.
The costs of winding down a company would be borne by large institutions that would be assessed an up-front fee that would finance a “resolution fund.’’ The fund would be capped at $200 billion.
The Senate was moving at a slower pace. There, Senate Banking Committee chairman Christopher Dodd, Democrat from Connecticut, has formed bipartisan working groups to help assemble a bill. His draft proposal met stiff Republican resistance last month, and some Democrats also took issue with some provisions.
In the House, pieces of the broader, combined regulatory bill still face their own obstacles.