As Congress races to pass a bill funding government operations, Wall Street lobbyists finally have an opportunity to make changes to the Dodd-Frank Act, the sweeping regulatory overhaul passed in response to the 2008 financial crisis — and Elizabeth Warren is having none of it.
The Massachusetts senator took to the Senate floor Wednesday to plead with House Democrats to withhold support for the government funding package because of provisions that would change Dodd-Frank and allow, as she put it, "Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money."
"Who does Congress work for?" she asked. "Does it work for the millionaires, the billionaires, the giant companies with their armies of lobbyists and lawyers? Or does it work for all people?
"People are frustrated with Congress, and part of the reason, of course, is gridlock. But mostly it's because they see a Congress that works just fine for the big guys, but it won't lift a finger to help them. If big companies can deploy armies of lobbyists and lawyer to get Congress to vote for special deals that benefit themselves, then we simply confirm the view of the American people that the system is rigged."
The background: The fight between Wall Street lobbyists and lawmakers has centered on elements of Dodd-Frank that "address the culprits of the financial crisis, including the sort of derivatives trading that helped push the insurance giant American International Group to the brink of collapse in 2008," the New York Times' Ben Protess wrote.
"One bill would amend the so-called Volcker Rule, a centerpiece of Dodd-Frank. Another bill that lawmakers plan to include in the government funding plan was essentially written by lobbyists for Citigroup. If included in the final spending bill, the proposals would represent the greatest threat yet to Dodd-Frank, the most comprehensive regulatory overhaul since the Depression and one of the Obama administration's signature legislative achievements."
This isn't the only measure in the 1,603-page spending package that should give the average taxpayer anxiety: Congress is also poised to sneak through a deal that would obliterate campaign finance restrictions. According to the Hill, one provision seeks the limit on how much a person can donate to a national political party in a year from $32,400 to $324,000, which would be a huge blow to campaign finance restrictions," Mic's Zeeshan Aleem writes.
According to the Hill, the change would allow one person to give $648,000 in a two-year cycle, and a couple could give twice that amount.
"This provision would be yet another blow to advocates for campaign finance regulations designed to insulate the political process from plutocratic tendencies, most of which have come from the Supreme Court," Aleem wrote.
Warren's right: It's no wonder the American people believe the system is rigged.