Republicans may have found a targeted term to explain why their financial reforms are stalling in Washington: the "Elizabeth Warren phenomenon."
That was the phrase used by Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., to explain why certain regulatory relief bills were at a standstill. McHenry, who also serves as deputy whip and is on the House Financial Services Committee, specifically pointed to Democrats' resistance recently to a bill that would address how to calculate mortgage points and fees.
He said some Democrats are no longer willing to pass provisions to help banks.
"The Elizabeth Warren phenomenon in the Democratic Party is unfortunate," said McHenry, speaking during a speech at an annual mortgage conference hosted by the North Carolina Bankers Association. "It has become harder for the left to do reasonable things."
To be sure, it is common in Washington for one party to blame the other when it comes to why legislation hasn't passed. But McHenry's willingness to single out Warren again demonstrates how far her public profile has risen.
The House passed a bill last week that would have changed how points and fees are calculated under the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's "qualified mortgage." But Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., adamantly opposes a similar measure in the Senate.
The House bill "is about preserving a cash cow for the mortgage industry and not about access to credit," she said last week.
McHenry said that Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., supported the points and fees bill two years ago, but opposed it this year due to pressure from lawmakers like Warren.
In his comments, McHenry also took up the issue of housing finance reform, noting that Congress will only revisit the issue in the near term if Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are in need of additional funding. Responding to a question from Joseph A. Smith Jr., the monitor of the national mortgage settlement, McHenry stated that broader efforts to reform Fannie and Freddie were unlikely.
"It is important that we move the discussion along" for a post-GSE world, he added. "We in the House will have to wait a little longer for that opportunity."
McHenry also shot down the prospects of a complete repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act.
"The idea of fully repealing Dodd-Frank is not going to happen," he said, noting Senate rules that would require substantial Democrat support for it to happen, among other impediments. Still, he expressed optimism of "small but significant" changes to how the law is enforced. Though he gave no specifics, he said bipartisan support is possible for easing regulatory burden on community banks.