Last week I reported on a regulatory relief bill that the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs passed on May 21. The bill, introduced by Chairman Richard Shelby of Alabama, was passed along party lines, with Republicans in favor. I also reported that the bill included two amendments, also approved along party lines, with the notable exception of Indiana Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly, who voted in favor of the amendments.
Sen. Donnelly is considered to be one of four moderate Democrat senators serving on the Senate Banking Committee. It has been widely reported that any real chance for passage of a regulatory relief bill is going to need bipartisan support. This support starts at the committee level, and Sen. Donnelly was well-positioned to play a crucial role in providing that initial bipartisan support.
I recently had the opportunity to thank the senator for his bipartisan support of the two amendments he supported as the only Democrat vote. I also shared with him that I thought he would be in support of many of the other regulatory relief provisions of the Shelby bill that was approved by the Committee. He assured me that there were provisions in the bill that he could support, though he did express concern about other provisions, which he did not view as appropriate for this bill. He also indicated that members of both parties of the Senate continue to meet to work through the differences between the two regulatory relief proposals. Donnelly seemed confident that a compromise bill would come out of this process.
In the past few days, the financial press has been focused on a perceived Republican strategy that has regulatory relief being placed in must-pass, budget-related bills. Apparently this thinking comes from a speech by Chairman Shelby in late April at the Independent Community Bankers of America legislative policy summit, which I attended. As I recall the speech, the context was more of a fallback position that could be explored. I am immediately drawn to Sen. Donnelly’s belief that a compromise bill would come out of this process and pass the Senate.
While this is politics above my pay grade, it seems to me that if a bill can be developed that has bipartisan support and is primarily helpful to banks, it would find its way to the Senate floor and be approved by the entire body. It would show that bipartisan work can be done by what the voting public believes to be a partisan body. I would also like to think that Sen. Donnelly will be at the forefront of any Democratic support from his caucus.
Regardless of how this plays out, Sen. Donnelly wants to see a bill with regulatory relief move this year. We certainly hope he is right and will do all we can to help him and his colleagues in their quest. This could come down to how much support the compromise bill gets from community bankers. If that is the case, I know that a regulatory relief bill would get a full court press for grassroots support. Thank you, Sen. Donnelly, for your candor and support of community banking!
-S. Joe DeHaven