Seeking to avoid another government shutdown, the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday released the fiscal year 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill, legislation that will provide discretionary funding for the vast majority of the federal government for the remainder current fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, 2015.
The bill, a compromise between parties, nonetheless reflects some of the newfound clout earned by Republicans in the recent mid-term elections, notably in measures directly aimed at the Dodd-Frank Act.
The $1.1 trillion budget contains some good news for regulators. The Securities and Exchange Commission receives $1.5 billion, which is $150 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level (but $200 million below the budget request). Of that funding, $57 million is designated for the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis to improve the use of economic analysis in the Commission’s rule-making process. The legislation also rescinds $25 million from the SEC’s “reserve fund, “referred to in a statement by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) as “a slush fund for SEC programs that have no congressional oversight.”
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is funded at $250 million, an increase of $35 million, but $30 million below the President’s budget request. The legislation also promotes transparency, with a directive requiring a vote by the full Commission, instead of just staff, on financial regulations that “greatly increase regulatory burdens for ranchers, farmers, and job creators.” The Department of Justice was granted a $393 million budget increase over its current $28 billion budget.
Riders attached to the bill may foreshadow future efforts to revise the Dodd-Frank Act in the next Congress. One imposes a requirement on the Office of Management and Budget to report on the costs to the government of the financial reform legislation.
More substantial are changes to the so-called “swaps push-out” regulations, a requirement that banks shuttle certain derivatives trades into separate units that are not government insured and not eligible for a bailout. The intent of the Dodd-Frank requirement was to ensure that high-risk trades were not encouraged with taxpayer dollars as a backstop. Amid a full-court press by big banks to repeal that provision, the budget bill includes language that, for now, greatly narrows the scope of what derivatives trades must be pushed into separate units. In a less controversial line item, the bill also exempts non-bank end users, such as farmers and other non-financial businesses, from a prohibition on derivatives trades not made through a regulated clearinghouse.
Gutting the push out rule is not sitting well with many. On Wednesday afternoon, as the full House debated the Bill, Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) held a press conference to decry the move. Thomas Hoenig, vice chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporatio, also weighed in, calling the Dodd-Frank rule “an important step in pushing the trading activity out to where it should be conducted: in the open market, outside of taxpayer-backed commercial banks.”
“It is illogical to repeal the push out requirement,” he said. “In fact, [under the rule] most derivatives, almost 95 percent would not be pushed out of the bank. That is because interest rate swaps, foreign exchange and cleared credit derivatives can remain within the bank and derivatives that are used for hedging can remain in the bank.” The main items that must be pushed out were uncleared credit default swaps, equity derivatives and commodities derivatives. “These are, in relative terms, much smaller and where the greater risks and capital subsidy is most useful to these banking firms,” said.
The budget bill is now before the full House and Senate for a vote.