Wall Street Wins Again as Dems Agree to Cut Funds for Regulators
Republican negotiators have reined in funding for Wall Street regulators as part of agreeing a $1.1tn federal budget, but dropped demands for further reductions in federal food stamp programmes that would have hit America's poorest families.
The measures are among thousands of spending items contained in theso-called omnibus appropriations bill published on Monday night in a bipartisan effort to avoid another government shutdown when current authorisation expires on Friday.
The House of Representatives is due to vote on the measure on Wednesday. If passed, it would be the first time since 2011 that Congress has agreed a detailed budget and builds on negotiations by senator Patty Murray and congressman Paul Ryan before Christmas to set broad tax and spending parameters.
However, the final text, which runs to more than 1,500 pages, contains scores of politically contentious measures that may yet cause backlash among Democrats and Republicans.
Hal Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House appropriations committee, singled out the budget for the Securities and Exchange Commission in a press release, which received $324m less than it requested and $25m taken from reserves he called “a slush fund”.
Wall Street lobbyists have been pressing Congress to curb the growing power of regulators like the SEC in the wake of the financial crisis and Rogers said the spending bill had also designating $44m to an economic review of its rule-making process.
This decision, and similar cuts to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, brought an angry response from Wall Street campaigners.
“It is shameful that Wall Street’s allies in Congress have again failed to fund the very agencies that are charged with protecting Main Street and preventing another financial crisis,” said Dennis Kelleher, president and CEO of Better Markets, an independent nonprofit organisation that promotes the public interest in the financial markets.
“The only reason not to fully fund the CFTC and the SEC is to protect Wall Street profits, bonuses and reckless trading. This rewards Wall Street’s lobbyists and campaign cash while endangering American families,” he added.
But Republicans appear to have dropped contentious proposals to force further cuts to food stamps, known as Snap, as part of agreeing farm spending.
Barbara Mikulski, the Democratic senator who chairs the Senate appropriations committee, said the bill includes $82bn in mandatory funding for the Snap program which would “fully fund the program and reflects the administration’s latest estimates”.
Rogers said Republicans had instead demanded “oversight and monitoring requirements to weed out waste and abuse in nutrition programs”
The bill will also fund Obama's Affordable Care Act implementation, despite earlier Republican threats to defund it.
“This agreement shows the American people that we can compromise, and that we can govern. It puts an end to shutdown, slowdown, slamdown politics,” said Mikulski in a statement.
“I’m pleased that this agreement includes all 12 appropriations bills. For the first time since 2011, no mission of our government will be left behind on autopilot.”