House Republicans, with Some Democratic Help, Vote in Favor of Discrimination and Deregulation in Latest Attacks on Federal Watchdogs

This week, the Republican House of Representatives continued to work on one of their favorite lobbies: gutting financial regulation.

On Tuesday, the House voted to repeal a 2013 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) guidance that laid out steps indirect auto lenders should take to ensure that they are operating in compliance with the fair credits laws as applied to dealer markup and compensation policies. In other words, the CPFB wanted to help curb discrimination against consumers on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, and age, all prohibited by the the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA). Racial discrimination in auto lending is a well-documented phenomenon.

The vote was 234 to 175, with Vern Buchanan (FL-16) voting present. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (IL-27) was the only Republican to vote against the repeal.

11 Democrats joined the GOP: Jim Cooper (TN-05), Lou Correa (CA-46), Jim Costa (CA-16), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Gene Green (TX-29), Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), Collin Peterson (MN-07), Kurt Schrader (OR-05), David Scott (GA-13), and Filemon Vela (TX-34).
Rion Dennis from Americans for Financial Reform condemned the vote:

“Lawmakers who supported the rollback of CFPB’s common-sense effort to curb discrimination in auto lending have sent a terrible message to communities of color in this country. Companies will put millions of people into more expensive car loans simply because of the color of their skin….In the era of mass incarceration, racial profiling and unaccountable police brutality, every member of Congress who voted for this bill has to explain why they do not believe people of color deserve the full protection of the federal government, especially given the long documented history of racial discrimination in auto lending.”

The vote set a new precedent regarding the use of the Congressional Review Act, the 1996 law invoked by Republicans to repeal a number of rules last year. The CFPB guidance was issued in 2013, which would have been too far in advance for Congress to repeal. However, the Government Accountability Office ruled last year that it would count as a rule, opening the floodgates to other such repeals.

The floor vote earlier this week produced some tense moments, such as when Republican Mike Kelly (PA-03) tried to shut up Maxine Waters (CA-43), telling her to stop talking about discrimination and saying that he wants to get back to “making America great again.” She rightfully lashed back, criticizing the audacity of his comments: “Don’t you dare talk to me like that and think that somehow women don’t understand what goes on on the floors of automobile dealers.”

The House continued its deregulatory efforts on Wednesday with the Standard Merger and Acquisition Reviews Through Equal Rules Act, an assault on the the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) ability to challenge proposed corporate mergers, protect consumers, and promote competition.

The FTC was created in 1914 as an independent agency to complement the Department of Justice’s antitrust division and encourage long-term development of antitrust policy (since it’s a bipartisan and independent agency, it is not as susceptible to president-to-president swings as the DOJ is). The Republican bill seeks to make the FTC a redundant agency, taking away its unique and independent functions and requiring it to challenge proposed mergers or acquisitions through the federal courts rather than through its own administrative procedures.

It passed 230 to 185. One Republican — Jimmy Duncan (TN-02) — joined Democrats in voting against it. (Given his tendency to vote against such bills, Walter Jones (NC-03) might have done so as well had he been in attendance.)

Four Democrats joined the GOP in voting for it: Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Scott Peters (CA-52), Collin Peterson (MN-07), and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09).

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