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Legislative Updates: September 2011


Capitol Call

During the month of August, it can be very hard to find interesting Congressional and Regulatory activity to write about, since there usually isn't any. This year was no exception. Congress adjourned early in the month after the grueling debt ceiling-raising battle and the creation of a bipartisan "Super Committee" to try to find new ways to cut federal spending. The CFTC held hearings on August 4 and 8 to consider several proposed rules, and then quickly left the city as well. It seems like everyone here in Washington takes August off and decides to shelve the serious work until after Labor Day.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. Even the workhorses over at the CFTC need a few days off, and those in Congress surely relished the opportunity to go back home and re-connect with their constituents over corn-on-the-cob and pork chops at the state fair. For their respective staffs, and the rest of us in Washington, August was a welcome respite from the frenetic pace that Congress and the regulatory agencies have been keeping. Plus, with the Washington area experiencing both an earthquake and a hurricane in the same week, people who had stuck around were probably wondering why they had bothered to.

With the August hiatus over, Congress and Washington-watchers are looking forward to a busy fall. Earlier this week, the Senate Banking Committee (SBC) unanimously approved the nominations of Luis Aguilar and Daniel Gallagher to serve on the Securities and Exchange Commission. Once confirmed, Mr. Gallagher will replace Commissioner Kathy Casey. However, with limited time for debate and several senators placing holds on other various financial-related regulatory nominees, including the FDIC and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it is unclear when Messrs. Aguilar and Gallagher, or any other nominees, will be approved by full Senate.

In the near term, both the SBC and House Financial Services Committee (HFSC) seem focused on holding oversight hearings on various topics, most notably the housing finance industry. Neither Committee seems to be interested in considering and passing major legislation. However, House leaders have indicated that they will be passing legislation on a regular basis that will reduce the regulatory burden on industries, so it is likely that some sort of regulatory reform will emerge from the HFSC at some point. Whether it will be considered by the Senate is a different matter.

Elsewhere in Congress, sources indicate that the House Agriculture Committee will soon consider legislation designed to alleviate the regulatory burden that end-users and others in the commodity industry face. It is expected to be considered and passed by the House on a bi-partisan basis, but, again, its fate in the Senate is far from certain.

In Dodd-Frank news, the headline continues to be that Republicans are opposed to the Act and want to slice and dice it to reduce the regulatory hurdles that they feel businesses face after its passage, while Democrats are encouraged by the progress that the Act has made to reign in what they believe was reckless activity and a lack of proper oversight in the financial markets. To state the obvious, most observers believe that the two sides will continue to battle over implementation of the Act for months, if not years, to come.

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