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With All Eyes on Comey, GOP Set to Lavish Wall Street and Trash Consumers

The CHOICE Act is little more than a paean to Wall Street, critics argue

The CHOICE Act is "a parade of anti-family, anti-consumer provisions," argues Liz Ryan Murray of People's Action. (Photo: Richard Drew/AP)

While all eyes are fixed on the potentially explosive testimony of fired FBI Director James Comey, House Republicans are set to vote Thursday on the so-called CHOICE Act, a bill that, if enacted, would gut consumer protections and free Wall Street "to do whatever it wants."

Liz Ryan Murray of People's Action dubbed the legislation "a parade of anti-family, anti-consumer provisions; one terrible proposal after another.  It takes away rules that say your financial advisor has to represent clients' interest before lining their own pockets; basically, it allows sales pitches to be disguised as financial advice."

"Millions of Americans lost their homes, their jobs, and their savings when Wall Street crashed the economy in 2008. That seems to matter little to House Republicans who appear determined to deregulate the financial industry."
—Lisa Gilbert, Public Citizen

The bill primarily sets its sights on the Dodd-Frank Act, a regulatory package passed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. While Dodd-Frank has often been criticized by activists and analysts as being too weak, Republicans have argued that its mandates are harmful to community banks and credit unions.

In a piece published in The Nation on Wednesday, journalist David Dayen argued that this narrative is a side-show meant to divert attention from the CHOICE Act's true objective: giving large financial institutions free rein. Dayen further noted that while the bill will fly through the House, it has no chance of passing the Senate in its current form.

"So why bother with the CHOICE Act at all? The answer is that Republicans would rather send a message than send a law to the president," Dayen wrote.

He explained:

There's probably a bill out there that would reduce Dodd-Frank rules for community banks (although there’s plenty of tailoring in bank supervision already) that could pass Congress; in fact, here is that bill. But Republicans don’t want to make the choice of getting that done without freeing the big banks as well. So they pass the CHOICE Act, and it falls into the ether, and they can say to their lobbyist pals that they tried.

While acknowleging the bill will likely face insurmountable opposition once it reaches the Senate, Democratic lawmakers, activists, and consumer protection groups have nonetheless urged focused resistance, pointing out that the Republican-controlled Congress could attempt to pass the legislation in piecemeal fashion.

"Millions of Americans lost their homes, their jobs, and their savings when Wall Street crashed the economy in 2008. That seems to matter little to House Republicans who appear determined to deregulate the financial industry," said Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs at Public Citizen, in a statement. "Ideally, the U.S. Senate will understand what Americans understand: that commonsense safeguards are crucial for an industry that runs on risk. Congress also should be wary of considering this bill in smaller parts, which would favor predatory lenders and other scam artists."

Sen Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who initially spearheaded efforts to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)—an agency that the CHOICE Act would "destroy"—wrote ahead of the planned vote, "We won't let Wall Street crush our economy again."

On Twitter, critics used #WrongChoiceAct to voice their opposition.

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