Next week in Corporate Congress: popular consumer agency under fire

Flickr photo by watchingfrogsboilThe McConnell-Boehner Corporate Congress next week will go after an agency that has, in its four short years of existence, done great things for consumers: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It is just one of several public interest attacks next week that are on Public Citizen’s radar screen:

•    The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution is scheduled to hold a hearing at 2 p.m. Thursday, July 23, about the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This is another opening for Wall Street’s backers in Congress to attack the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s structure and power. But they will be attacking an agency that, in just four years, has helped 17 million Americans obtain remedies for financial harm and has recovered $10.1 billion in consumer relief from companies that engaged in wrongdoing. If anything, the agency needs to be strengthened, not weakened.

•    The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate are set to convene a conference committee on a customs and enforcement bill that could weaken a strong anti-trafficking provision in last month’s Fast Track bill. The backdrop: The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TiP) report, which is expected to be released next week, may include an “upgrade” of Malaysia’s Tier 3 Ranking. Particularly in the wake of the horrific revelations of mass graves of human trafficking victims in Malaysia, this raises serious concerns for anti-trafficking advocates in the U.S. and Malaysia, as well as members of Congress who included a provision in the Fast Track bill that would bar Malaysia and other Tier 3 countries with the worst human trafficking record from entering into Fast Track trade deals. Nineteen senators and more than 160 representatives sent bipartisan letters this week to Secretary of State John Kerry, expressing concern over any manipulation of the TiP report to further the administration’s goals to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which includes Malaysia.

•    Before going into August recess – possibly even next week – the House will vote on the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act (S. 226 and H.R. 427). This bad bill would require all new economically significant regulations – in other words, the big-ticket public protections that provide the most health, safety, environmental and economic benefits – to be approved by both chambers of Congress before taking effect. If both chambers were unable to approve a major rule within a 70-day window, the rule would not take effect and would be tabled until the next congressional session. In effect, the reigning dysfunction in Congress would endanger any important new regulation, no matter how uncontroversial it might be.