The dealmaker on the Financial Services Committee

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Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., is an expert on how to get things done on Capitol Hill. Formerly the chief Republican deputy whip, McHenry is now the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees banking and regulation of financial markets and insurance. McHenry spoke with the Washington Examiner to discuss his agenda and his working relationship with Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the committee chairwoman. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You’re in the minority in the House but have a Republican majority in the Senate. Does that give you increased leverage?

It does. You think about deal-making in the Senate. If you can come to a bipartisan consensus, you can produce a bill out of the Senate. I think of it that way in the House. These partisan bills that make it out of committee and have partisan outcomes on the House floor are dead in the Senate. If we’re going to get a bill signed into law, I need to be mindful of that in the vote totals there, so I think a lot about the Senate these days.

You’ve said you can work with Waters even though you have political differences. What are the areas you expect to be able to work on?

Anti-money laundering. Bank Secrecy Act reforms. I’m encouraged by her creation of the task force on fintech and the task force on artificial intelligence in financial services. But the three areas of authorization within our committee jurisdiction are three areas where we’ve committed to work with each other to try and find a bipartisan solution.

[Those three are the Export-Import Bank, the National Flood Insurance Program, and the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. A preliminary agreement on a five-year reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program was reached the day after this interview.]

In a recent hearing, there seemed to be bipartisan agreement that the consumer credit rating system is broken. Is there bipartisan agreement on how to fix it?

Unfortunately, no. We could pass a narrow bill into law. A broad bill, though, I don’t think there’s enough consensus. Waters has a few hundred-page bill that she had in a previous Congress that is a non-starter on the Republican side. So this would have to be a narrow reform bill rather than some big piece of legislation.

Housing finance reform is a priority for the chairwoman. Is that an issue where you see enough momentum to actually get something done this Congress?

What I’ve asked [Federal Housing Finance Agency] Director [Mark] Calabria to provide, as he goes about his agenda, is to give us space and time for Congress to act. He has authorities under law with Treasury to do a number of really broad action items, and I recognize that legal authority he has. But what I’ve requested is for him to give us time to hammer things out and actually legislate. I think it’s one of the big agenda items left undone from the financial crisis. Of the two big nationalizations of the last decade, one was student loans and the other was Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

I think there’s a real opportunity for us, in divided government, to achieve real fundamental reform of Fannie and Freddie. I’m ready, the intellectual framework is all there, the puzzle pieces are all laid out — now you just have to have the political will and the push to actually go put these pieces together for some new system or some modification for the existing system.

Is the time there? The conversation doesn’t seem to have started at the committee level.

Not in a meaningful way. I think there is time for us to work through this. But housing finance reform has to be bipartisan because there is no Democrat- or Republican-only vote coalition. We found that over the last 20-something years of attempts at housing finance reform. I’m interested in engaging, and I’m hoping that Chairwoman Waters will prioritize this. This summer is going to be quite interesting legislatively. July is going to be a hot month, I think, both for the House investigations and for what will begin with housing finance.

With Ex-Im, it seems like the administration is supportive of a reauthorization, given the nominees they put forward that were confirmed to be part of the board.

Yes, and the engagement we’ve had with the National Security Council and the National Economic Council and the president’s key staff when it comes to trade policy, we have, I think, reoriented the conversation around a bank that has an eye toward China and makes us more competitive against the China international agenda with “One Belt One Road.” I think reorienting that program around that is much more in keeping with the White House on a sweet spot.

And that would assuage concerns that were present during the last reauthorization fight?

Yes, because if this is connected with national security — how we ensure that our allies don’t have to fall prey to Huawei and 5G, how we utilize our technology globally, how we utilize our innovation globally — I think there’s a great opportunity for this. But it has to be a reoriented institution around those issues. If this is simply another business program to keep doing the old business line, I don’t have as much drive and passion around that.

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