The Barney Frank succession battle: Waters vs. Maloney
Just days after Barney Frank announced his retirement, the first round in his succession battle had already begun.
Rep. Maxine Waters, a liberal Democrat, is next in line to take Frank’s seat as the leading House Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. But she’s currently being investigated for ethics violations, fueling speculation that the leadership role might instead go to Rep. Caroline Maloney, the New York Democrat whose Manhattan constituency has made her a closer friend of Wall Street. Maloney recently said that she won’t directly challenge Waters for Frank’s seat, but she’s likely to be next in line if Waters’s ethics troubles end up sinking her candidacy.
On Wednesday, the committee took up a Republican bill to ease a derivatives regulation in Dodd-Frank that seemed to pit the two directly against each other. Maloney is a co-sponsor of the bill, which eliminates a transparency requirement for derivatives trading that require swaps to be posted on electronic screens — a new regulation from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Maloney, whose district includes Manhattan’s well-heeled Upper East Side, was concerned that the new rules were too strict, prohibiting practices that are customary among Wall Street brokerage firms.
“The CFTC rule is not consistent with Dodd-Frank, will hurt markets and cost American jobs,” Maloney said on Wednesday, according to her prepared remarks. She pointed out that the Securities and Exchange Commission, which also oversees derivatives, allows for a much broader range of trading practices. New York’s liberal Working Families Party attacked Maloney for “siding with Wall Street lobbyists and Tea Party conservatives by co-sponsoring a bill that undermines transparency.”
Waters was pointed in her own attack of the bill. On Wednesday, she criticized her colleagues supporting the proposal for trying to undermine Wall Street reform. “Members — be very careful about how to change, modify, undo, eliminate the work of Dodd-Frank,” she warned. “This bill would limit transparency.” Instead, Waters proposed an amendment that essentially gutted the entire bill, instead giving the CFTC and SEC three months to work on clarifying the transparency provision.
Interestingly enough, Waters also went out of her way to explain that she didn’t specifically fault Maloney for co-sponsoring the bill. “I don’t question her motives at all,” Waters said, of her New York colleague. “She has a record in support of transparency. And the way she framed her opposition is certainly something that I respect.”
And perhaps Waters’s graciousness did the trick. After hearing out her remarks, Maloney decided to support Waters’s amendment — much to the chagrin of the Republican supporters she had worked with to craft the original bill. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) seemed taken aback by Maloney’s change of heart. Under Waters’s amendment, he reminded her, “the bill that you work on is ... is gone,” Garrett said.
Maloney didn’t budge. Along with every other Democrat on the committee — and one Republican — she voted for the Waters amendment. It was ultimately defeated by the rest of the Republicans, 23-31. But the whole episode may have shown that there’s more consensus between Maloney and Waters than meets the eye.