Romney Presses Attack on Obama Over QM Rule, More

The Republican presidential candidate used the issue to try to deal the Democratic candidate a blow. Image: Thinkstock

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney sharply questioned President Obama’s bank regulatory policies during the debate Wednesday evening, charging that the Dodd-Frank Act reinforced the notion of “too big to fail” and warning that the failure to finalize a “qualified mortgage” rule has stifled the housing market.

(The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has taken two rounds of comments on the QM rule and is expected to issue a regulation by the end of Janauary at the latest.) 

Romney moderated earlier calls to repeal the 2010 law, which placed a host of new requirements on banks in the wake of the financial crisis, instead saying he’d like to replace it. 

Republicans have repeatedly attacked provisions of Dodd-Frank since its passage, with many arguing that the law should be rescinded outright. Romney focused on several parts of the law that have particularly rankled the GOP, including the designation of certain large banks and nonbanks as systemically important.

Regulation is essential. You can’t have a free market work if you don’t have regulation…At the same time, regulation can become excessive,” Romney told debate host PBS’s Jim Lehrer.

“Dodd-Frank was passed and it includes within it a number of provisions that I think have some unintended consequences that are harmful to the economy. One is it designates a number of banks as ‘too big to fail.’ And they’re effectively guaranteed by the federal government.”

“This is the biggest kiss that’s been given to New York banks I’ve ever seen. This is an enormous boon for them. There have been 122 community and small banks that have closed since Dodd-Frank,” he added.

But at the same time, Romney noted that there “are some parts of Dodd-Frank that make all the sense in the world,” listing “transparency” and “leverage limits” before Lehrer cut him off, in the midst of what amounted to a freewheeling 90-minute showdown between the two presidential contenders. 

Obama’s response appeared tepid at best, failing to substantively rebut the idea that Dodd-Frank solidified “too big to fail.” His lack of specifics may well have been one of the president’s biggest missed opportunities of the debate.

Instead, Obama reminded the audience about some of the causes of the crisis, including borrowers buying houses they couldn’t afford and credit agencies gold stamping the process.

“You also had banks making money hand over fist churning out products that the bankers themselves didn’t even understand,” he said.

“So what did we do? We stepped in and had the toughest reforms on Wall Street since the 1930’s. We said, ‘Banks, you have to raise your capital requirements. You can’t engage in some of this risky behavior that is putting Main Street at risk,” Obama added. “We’re going to make sure you’re having a living will so we know how you’re going to wind things down if you make a bad bet so we don’t have other taxpayer bailouts. In the meantime, by the way, we also made sure that all the help that we provided those banks was paid back—every single dime with interest.”

Obama then pressed on Romney’s earlier calls to repeal the law, warning about the dangers of too little regulation.