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Lawmakers Try to Tiptoe Around Durbin Amendment

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lawmakers are exploring procedural loopholes to remove language repealing the Durbin Amendment from the Financial CHOICE Act, according to Bloomberg BNA.

The House Rules Committee is essentially looking for ways to allow the full House to have their cake and eat it too, giving lawmakers a loophole to keep the Durbin Amendment’s swipe-fee caps in place without having to publicly take a position on either side of the issue.

House leaders are discussing several options to achieve this political sleight of hand. The Rules Committee could modify the bill’s language through the use of a “print” that does away with the Durbin repeal, or it could put together a “self-executing rule” that would drop the language.

Whether the bill includes the Durbin Amendment or not, passage of the Financial CHOICE Act would gut many of the financial regulations set up by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act to protect the economy from another banking crisis. If the Rules Committee removed the repeal, it could also send a rule to the full House that would give lawmakers a path to consider the Financial CHOICE Act without allowing any moves to bring language repealing Durbin back into the bill, essentially safeguarding Durbin from any votes or discussion on the House floor.

But just because some House leaders are talking about the move doesn’t mean everyone is open to the idea. Bloomberg BNA obtained a recent letter to Republican leadership from Rep. Ted Budd, R-N.C., who argued against such procedural backdoors. “We respect the desire of leadership to avoid dividing the Conference,” Budd wrote in the letter, but he said a scenario where “the House never takes a vote on the Durbin Amendment is not acceptable under even an elastic standard of regular order.”

Bloomberg BNA also speculates that the likelihood of a vote on the Financial CHOICE Act reaching the House floor anytime soon is slim. The online publication cites sources familiar with the process that a vote is unlikely the week of May 22, and with a House recess scheduled for May 29, any moves from the Rules Committee or the greater floor aren’t likely to come until June at the earliest.

The entire debate around the Financial CHOICE Act could become a moot point if it reaches the Senate just to stall there due to lack of support. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., recently made his uncertainty of the bill’s passage public. “I’d love to do something about Dodd-Frank, particularly with regard to community banks but that would require Democratic involvement,” McConnell recently told Bloomberg News, but he’s “not optimistic” about its prospects in the Senate due to opposition to the bill from Democrats.

Between the procedural squirming from House leaders and McConnell’s public lack of confidence in the bill’s support, the passage of the Financial CHOICE Act looks more and more uncertain as time passes. But scaling back financial regulations under Dodd-Frank is an oft-mentioned priority of the Trump administration, and House Republicans seem eager to deliver legislative wins for the president’s agenda. Only time will tell if the Durbin Amendment is caught in the crosshairs of this political firefight.

Jackson Lewis


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