The Democrats’ takeover of the House will hand a key committee gavel – and the power to issue subpoenas – to one of President Donald Trump’s fiercest critics. It also will trigger aggressive oversight of the Trump administration, especially its drive to defang the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and to roll back Dodd-Frank financial rules. Here are five things to know about how the elections will impact financial services policy in 2019:
1. Historic: Women in charge. For the first time in history, female lawmakers will assume two of the most powerful congressional positions with stewardship over the nation’s economy.
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., is in line to become chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee. She will be the first female chairwoman and first African-American to lead the committee. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., is expected to be chairwoman of the panel’s Capital Markets Subcommittee as well as the Joint Economic Committee.
Both lawmakers have decades of experience with financial services issues and will pursue an aggressive agenda to strengthen consumer protections while also battling the White House over CFPB, Dodd-Frank, housing and more.
2. Waters’ team: Experienced and loyal. Being an effective chairwoman is an entirely different experience from leading the proverbial loyal opposition, which Waters has done as the committee’s ranking Democrat since 2013. Along with the gavel comes responsibility for policymaking, team-building and party discipline among her membership.
Waters has been among Trump’s sharpest critics, but now she will be doing battle with the White House on a whole different level. She will be able to count on the backing of senior members seated on the top row of the committee’s dais. It’s an experienced group of long-tenured lawmakers loyal to their new committee leader, including Reps. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y.; Brad Sherman, D-Calif.; Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y.; Stephen Lynch, D-Mass.; and David Scott, D-Ga.
Waters and the new House Democratic leadership could choose to shuffle the jurisdiction among subcommittees or even create new ones. Barring that, however, those on deck to chair subcommittees next year are Reps. Wm. Lacy Clay, D-Mo.; Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo.; Gwen Moore, D-Wis.; Al Green, D-Tex.; and Ed Perlmutter, D-Col.
In addition to the reliably progressive voices on the committee, Waters will have to balance the interests of lawmakers who have adopted more pro-business positions, including Reps. Jim Himes, D-Conn., and Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. The committee also will be stocked in 2019 with the fresh faces of newly elected members, including some from swing districts that are likely to be highly competitive in 2020.
3. Oversight, oversight, oversight. The House Financial Services Committee doesn’t have a recent history of conducting extensive oversight investigations. But that’s expected to change next year. Committee Democrats have been calling on Republicans to use the panel’s subpoena power to gain access to Trump’s financial and business records as well as investigate banks and credit reporting agencies. Beginning in January, Waters will be able issue subpoenas on her own.
Democrats are plotting an aggressive oversight strategy of the administration, including potential Trump business connections to Russia and consideration of whether the president is violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.
Trump’s Cabinet will come under scrutiny, including Secretary Ben Carson’s Department of Housing and Urban Affairs, which falls under the committee’s jurisdiction. Waters and other Democrats have been critical of Carson’s tenure and the administration’s proposal to eliminate certain housing programs.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also can be expected to be questioned on a range of issues, from Wall Street regulations to Trump’s tariffs and their impact on the U.S. economy. Waters will also oversee federal banking and securities regulators.
The private sector won’t escape the committee’s inquiries. Waters previously called for subpoenas of Deutsche Bank for records that could demonstrate whether Trump had financial connections to Russia.
Waters also will be targeting big banks. Last year, Waters issued a 38-page report criticizing federal regulators for not shutting down certain banks.
4. Waters’ policy focus: housing and consumer finance. As the former chairwoman of the committee’s Housing Subcommittee, Waters knows housing policy. Democrats say the Trump administration is reversing progress established under Dodd-Frank for consumer protections in mortgage lending. She has been preparing for her new role by developing comprehensive legislation addressing her priority areas of financial services policy.
Waters this summer introduced legislation designed to strengthen the Fair Housing Act and require operators of homeless shelters to inform residents of their rights. Along with the group of members expected to chair her subcommittees, she introduced the Consumers First Act, which maps out her complaints about how she says Trump has mismanaged the CFPB and proposes changes to the independent agency. Her reform of credit reporting agencies “provides injunctive relief” for consumers against inaccurate information and would direct that free credit scores be given to people along with their free annual credit reports. Her Megabank Accountability and Consequences Act would direct banking regulators to revoke charters and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. coverage when consumer protections are repeatedly violated.
The incoming chairwoman also is expected to advance a series of bills reinstating Wall Street regulations and consumer protections. But those efforts are unlikely to find favor in the Republican-controlled Senate.
5. Who’s the ranking Republican? At least five Republicans are maneuvering to become the ranking GOP member on the committee. The job will likely go to Patrick McHenry, R-N.C. He already has a seat at the Republican leadership table as the House chief deputy whip, but McHenry is likely to choose instead to seek the position as the committee’s ranking Republican. McHenry enjoys a cordial working relationship with Waters and will work with her on policy where bipartisanship is possible. He is expected to lead the opposition to the committee’s oversight agenda, particularly of the administration.