cutimes.com | Credit Union Times | June 21, 2017 | 3
inancial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling’s
Financial CHOICE Act
turned out to be pretty
First, it went to the House floor
on the same day that Former FBI
Director James Comey testified
before the Senate Intelligence
Committee – a development that
consumed a huge amount of
Then, during a committee hearing, Senate Banking Chairman
Mike Crapo (R-Id.) listed the steps
policymakers were taking toward
a Dodd-Frank overhaul.
And he didn’t mention Hen-
sarling’s bill, although after the
House passed it, he called it a “sig-
nificant and thoughtful effort to
improve our financial regulatory
Then there was the debate on
the House floor. It was a fixed fight.
Sure, it featured the usual parti-
san bickering. To House Majority
Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.),
the bill “makes both Washington
and Wall Street accountable.” To
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.),
the bill was a “real stinker.”
But debate on the floor did not
feature fights over Democratic
amendments that would have al-
tered the massive legislation.
At one point, Hensarling asked
Democrats where their amendments or bills were.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)
replied, “Where’s our bill? That
would be Dodd-Frank.”
But that exchange masked a
more serious issue for the minor-
Chances are that Democrats
would have been precluded from
offering many – if any – amend-
ments on the floor.
Rules for floor de-
bate in the House
are set by the Rules
like all other commit-
tees is controlled by
the majority party, in
this case, the Repub-
For the most con-
the committee sets
the rules for debate.
Generally, there are
three types of rules.
An open rule allows
all members to of-
fer germane amend-
ments. A closed rule
prohibits all amend-
ments. And a struc-
tured rule allows the
to establish which
amendments may be
The latter two pret-
ty much fix any floor
fight over legislation. And most
fights are fixed.
On June 2, the Bipartisan Policy
Center, a think tank that is, well,
bipartisan, reported that so far, no
legislation this year has gone to
the floor with open rules. Closed
rules accounted for 62.5% of all
The rest of the rules, the re-
maining 37.5%, went to the floor
as structured rules.
The Financial CHOICE Act went
to the floor with a structured rule,
meaning the Rules Committee
designated which amendments
could be offered.
And so, the referee for legisla-
tive fights fixed this fight.
Democrats initially asked the
Rules Committee to offer several
amendments that would have
changed several sections of the
legislation, but later withdrew
Rules Committee member Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said on the
floor that if the rule was defeated
on a procedural vote, she would
offer an amendment to the bill
that would require presidents and
major party presidential candi-
dates to release their income tax
Of course, that went nowhere.
Now, open and structured rules
have their supporters and detractors. Supporters say they make the
trains run on time – the House can
consider legislation on a timely
Of course, it also allows the majority party to avoid voting on contentious issues – such as whether
a president should be required to
release their income tax returns.
Detractors argue that closed
or structured rules are bad for
democracy. And of course, they
keep the minority party from offering mischievous amendments
like ones requiring a president to
release his or her income tax returns.
And lo and behold, support or
opposition to those rules depend
on who’s controlling the majority.
Republicans like closed or
structured rules when they’re in
the majority but hate them when
they’re not. Democrats hate
closed rules when they’re in the
And so, as with all things in
Washington, where you stand depends on where you sit.
A Worth while Read
When you think of summer/beach
reading, political books usually
don’t top the list.
But Sen. Al Franken’s new book,
“Al Franken, Giant of the Senate”
should be the exception. It’s a
laugh-filled chronicle of Franken’s
journey from “Saturday Night
Live” to the Senate.
And Franken, a Minnesota
Democrat, tackles a topic that has
been painfully obvious to many
Capitol Hill journalists. To many
of us, Franken has been a dour,
smile-less senator who refuses to
talk with any of us.
As it turns out, that was a diffi-
cult, concerted decision on Fran-
ken’s part in his battle to be con-
sidered a serious legislator. In the
book, he discusses his battle to
stay serious and dour, while every-
one expected him to be a clown.
Not all entertainer-legislators
have taken that route.
Remember Fred Grandy? He’s
best known as Gopher on “The
A Republican, Grandy also rep-
resented an Iowa district in the
I asked Grandy about the story.
It never happened, he said, add-
ing that such a request would have
made him laugh.
House Fight Over CHOICE Act Was Fixed
EMAIL comments to
THE CU CAPITAL INSIDER
‘The Financial CHOICE
Act went to the floor
with a structured rule,
meaning the Rules
could be offered. And
so, the referee for
legislative fights fixed