Partisanship Is Alive and Well in Panel's Hearing

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Byline: Cheyenne Hopkins

WASHINGTON - If the House Financial Services Committee's first hearing of the year was any indication, the panel's handling of banking-related legislation in the new Congress will be just as partisan as the last - if not more so.

Wednesday's hearing, the first since Republicans retook the majority and Rep. Spencer Bachus became committee chairman, was billed as an opportunity to look ahead, with a focus on economic recovery and job creation. But it was instead dominated by criticism of the Dodd-Frank Act, policies of the Federal Reserve Board and the role of the government-sponsored enterprises in the crisis.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, the panel's vice chairman, cited President Obama's pledge in the previous night's State of the Union speech to target overly burdensome regulations. " 'When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them,' " Hensarling quoted Obama as saying. "Well, Mr. Chairman, we've found one. It's called Dodd-Frank."

But Democrats said the majority was over-politicizing issues facing the committee. For example, Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, said Republicans were exaggerating the impact of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the crisis as a means to get rid of the GSEs, whose existence the GOP has never supported.

"If we are going to properly resolve a problem, we should at least properly identify what the problem is," Green said. "One can conclude that elimination of a finger is appropriate for a hang nail, but I'm not sure that's the best way to resolve the problem. ... We really should identify the problem before we decide we are going to eliminate Fannie and Freddie."

Other than in a written statement blaming Dodd-Frank for "regulatory uncertainty" facing small banks, Bachus rarely spoke during the hearing. And his predecessor as chairman, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., now the ranking Democrat, was away attending the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

That left other members on the committee to air their disagreements.

Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., blasted the Volcker Rule, a provision of Dodd-Frank that aims to limit banks' risky trading. …