The U.S. House of Representatives made a historic vote in favor of consumers by passing H.R. 4173, the “Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009,” on December 11. This bill would create an agency with authority to set strong protections for financial products, such as mortgages, payday loans, and credit cards.
The bill is not without flaws, however. Financial industry lobbyists defeated several amendments that would have strengthened the CFPA, such as giving it authority to enforce the Community Reinvestment Act. Despite strong opposition from Illinois consumers and small business leaders, Illinois Rep. Melissa Bean (D-8) introduced an amendment that would have prevented state regulators from enforcing stronger state consumer protection laws, but under a less restrictive compromise, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency will decide whether to preempt state laws on a case-by-case basis. Consumer advocates must continue working with legislators to ensure that states can act quickly to protect consumers.
In Illinois, we also faced another disappointment: Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-11) voted against H.R. 4173—and against consumers’ best interests. While she had the opportunity to support comprehensive financial reform, Rep. Halvorson instead chose to side with financial lobbyists and oppose the creation of a new agency that would stop unfair and abusive practices.
Thanks to all of the Illinois nonprofits, community groups, government officials, and individual supporters who rallied on behalf of consumers and made countless calls to strengthen and support the CFPA. Our work now continues in the U.S. Senate, where a financial reform bill is likely to hit the floor early next year. Let’s repeat this victory in 2010!