At press time, the Senate was preparing to vote on competing Democratic and GOP bills to fund the government for the rest of the year. Caught up in the budget debate are funds for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). While House Republicans are attempting to significantly cut those agencies’ budgets, Senate Democrats are vowing to ensure that adequate funding for these agencies will be a negotiating tool on any federal budget deal.
Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said on March 8 that lawmakers “are tied in knots” over how to resolve their budget differences, and that there is a “real possibility” that the nation could again face the prospect of a government shutdown.
On March 11, the House and Senate agreed to a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government for another three weeks; the CR expires on April 8.
Harkin, who was speaking at the National Institute on Retirement Security’s (NIRS) policy conference in Washington, told Investment Advisor after his prepared remarks that he’d like to see a continuing resolution (CR) “at last year’s level” to fund the government until year-end, so lawmakers can focus on crafting “a budget for next year.”
But SEC chair Mary Schapiro, (left), told lawmakers during a round of hearings held on the agency’s funding status in mid-March that the CRs are hampering the agency’s ability to hire and attract knowledgeable and experienced personnel.
Senate Democrats have vowed to fight the budget cuts for the SEC, the CFTC and the CFPB as laid out by House Republicans’ budget plan. During a conference call held by consumer advocate groups in March, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, said he would “fight to ensure House Republicans lose this fight” to cut these agencies’ budgets, “just as they lost” on trying to stop the passage of Dodd-Frank itself. “House Republicans have fought the Dodd-Frank bill every step of the way,” he said. “All three of these agencies’ [budgets] will be part of the negotiation” as lawmakers try to hammer out a long-term budget resolution.