Democrats had the power to stop a massive big bank giveaway from passing the Senate Wednesday night, but instead they decided—with a "green light" from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y)—to hand the GOP more than enough votes to ram the deregulatory bill through instead, commemorating the tenth anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis by significantly increasing the risk of another one.
"The Senate Democrats who joined the GOP to deliver this bank giveaway were as politically short-sighted as they were reckless in putting our economy at risk."
—Kurt Walters, Rootstrikers
In addition to Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), 16 Democrats joined a unified Republican caucus in approving the so-called "Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act."
Rootstrikers, an anti-corruption group that worked for weeks to mobilize against what progressive critics have termed the "Bank Lobbyist Act," called Wednesday's vote "a shameful moment for the Senate" and placed much of the blame on Schumer, who voted against the measure but refused to whip against it.
"The Senate Democrats who joined the GOP to deliver this bank giveaway were as politically short-sighted as they were reckless in putting our economy at risk," Rootstrikers campaign director Kurt Walters said in a statement following the measure's passage. "Can Schumer's Democrats claim to fight for the little guy after deregulating 25 of the country's 40 biggest banks—and making it more likely the little guy's money will be used to give them bailouts?"
Exactly ten years after the financial crisis began, the Senate has voted 67-31 to pass the #BankLobbyistAct and roll back important regulations on America’s biggest banks. We fought hard, but the big banks and their lobbyists won this round.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) March 14, 2018
While Democratic supporters of the bill continued insisting to the very end it is aimed at providing relief to over-burdened community banks, numerous independent analyses have shown that the legislation's most consequential provisions are aimed at relieving massive banks that received upwards of $40 billion in bailout money during the 2008 financial crisis.
Even Equifax—a large credit-reporting company that suffered an enormous data breach last year and waited six weeks to inform the public—will benefit greatly from the legislation if it is passed in its current form.
"In addition to setting the stage for another taxpayer-funded bailout, this bill reduces safeguards against discriminatory, predatory lending for some of the most vulnerable consumers," Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs at Public Citizen, said in a statement.
As consumer groups, former regulators, civil rights organizations, and labor unions denounced the bill's passage on Wednesday, the measure's success did find one welcome audience: the Trump White House.
— Natalie Strom (@NStrom45) March 14, 2018
Having successfully made its way through the Senate after weeks of debate, the largest deregulatory measure since the financial crisis is now headed to the House, where it could be altered—but probably not in favor of consumers, as the House deregulation push has been even more extreme than the Senate's.
In a tweet following Wednesday's vote, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) vowed to pick up where his progressive colleagues in the Senate left off by doing everything he can to make sure the bill fails.
"Some of my colleagues may have forgotten about how bad the financial crash was, but I haven't," Ellison wrote. "Analysis by the nonpartisan CBO found this bill increases the likelihood of another taxpayer bailout. I will do everything in my power to fight it in the House."
Some of my colleagues may have forgotten about how bad the financial crash was but I haven't. Analysis by the nonpartisan CBO found this bill increases the likelihood of another taxpayer bailout. I will do everything in my power to fight it in the House. https://t.co/rOwWSgz0yz
— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) March 14, 2018