How ICBA is fighting for S. 2155

The Senate is likely to take up a bipartisan regulatory relief plan.

By Aaron Stetter

The community banking industry is on the verge of making a major down payment on our marathon push for substantial regulatory relief. Following determined and passionate outreach by ICBA and community bankers, Congress is poised to advance comprehensive regulatory relief legislation.

The bipartisan Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155) includes numerous provisions from ICBA’s Plan for Prosperity regulatory relief platform. The multipronged bill has been led by a bipartisan coalition of Senate Banking Committee chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and committee Democrats Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Jon Tester of Montana and Mark Warner of Virginia.

Following persistent outreach and leadership by community bankers, the committee cleared the bill in December with a bipartisan 16-7 vote, sending it to the Senate floor. At presstime, the Senate hadn’t yet passed the widely popular legislation, but there appear to be more than enough votes to approve it.

In fact, the bill has 20 original cosponsors, including five additional Democrats and Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine. Many other Democrats have signed on in support of the bill—indicating it has well over the 60-vote supermajority it needs in the Senate. With so much partisan acrimony in Washington, it appears that supporting the nation’s community banks is just about the only thing Republicans and Democrats can agree on.

Of course, community bankers are used to seeing substantial regulatory reforms advance through committee or even through the full House of Representatives. But these measures too often fail to achieve final passage in the Senate. This time appears to be different.

The forging of the bill by a bipartisan coalition provided an opening for the broad support we see today. These allies wisely resisted any changes to the bill while the committee marked it up in December to ensure it retained its focus on common-sense, popular provisions focused on community banks.

This goes not just for poison-pill amendments that would have expanded excessive regulations—and intentionally killed the bill—but also for attempts by the largest banks to extend the scope of relief to Wall Street. ICBA and community bankers refused to let the megabanks jeopardize this vitally important legislation, which is why we continue advocating a clean bill.

This legislation is substantial and achieves numerous provisions long sought by ICBA that would:

  • increase exemption thresholds for Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) reporting
  • provide “Qualified Mortgage” status for portfolio mortgage loans at most community banks
  • exempt certain community bank loans from escrow requirements
  • simplify community bank capital requirements
  • create a short-form call report for use in the first and third quarters by certain well-rated banks
  • expand eligibility for the 18-month regulatory examination cycle
  • ease appraisal requirements to facilitate mortgage credit in local communities
  • exempt most community banks from the Volcker Rule
  • expand access to the Federal Reserve’s Small Bank Holding Company Policy Statement to help more community banks build capital
  • improve regulatory treatment of reciprocal deposits and certain municipal securities
  • provide relief for larger community banks, including higher asset thresholds for systemically important financial institution designations, stress testing and risk committees.

This bill is a major step forward for the community banking industry. Community banks have shown that we can achieve a bipartisan vote despite a rancorous political environment and can fight off amendments that would distort and threaten the bill.

That brings us to our next step: urging Congress to deliver the bill to the president’s desk to be signed into law. Together, we have made great strides in this effort. Community bankers have used ICBA’s Be Heard grassroots action center to send countless emails and tweets to their senators to urge support. While working directly with Senate offices, we have also worked with community bankers in key jurisdictions to submit op-eds to local newspapers encouraging full Senate support.

With the well-deserved reputation that community banks enjoy on Capitol Hill, ICBA and community bankers are poised to clear the next hurdle. ICBA thanks community bankers for their grassroots outreach and will continue working with the industry to ensure this important bill is signed into law.

Stay vigilant, community bankers. We are almost to the finish line.


Aaron Stetter (aaron.stetter@icba.org) is ICBA executive vice president of policy and political operations.

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