It’s a busy time in Washington.
Fresh off the news on Friday that Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, introduced a bill to delay the implementation of the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule by two years, Congress will launch this week confirmation hearings for President-Elect Donald Trump’s cabinet positions.
The Senate will start on Tuesday with nomination hearings for Jeff Sessions, who was nominated by President-Elect Trump to be Attorney General as well as General John F. Kelly, USMC (Ret.), to be Secretary of Homeland Security. On Wednesday, the hearing for former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to be the new Secretary of Transportation will take place. On Thursday, the Senate Banking Committee will convene regarding the nomination of Dr. Ben Carson to be Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The hearing for Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education has been postponed until Jan. 17.
Democratic lawmakers – lead by Sen. Elizabeth Warren – have already called on the Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Lamar Alexander, to include witnesses to speak on the business practices and treatment of workers by Andrew Puzder, Trump’s nominee to lead the Labor Department. Alexander rejected their request.
Puzder – whose nomination hearing is to occur the week of Jan. 16 – has spoken out against the Obama administration’s overtime rules, but has yet to weigh in on where he stands regarding Labor’s fiduciary rule. “It’s not even clear” that Puzder “has a firm position (even though most of his aides are opposed to the [fiduciary rule]),” Greg Valliere, chief global strategist for Horizon Investments, said in his Monday commentary, adding that Trump has likely not even looked at the rule.
Valliere noted a “clear signal” from Puzder on the fiduciary rule will come during his confirmation hearing.
In the meantime, “we think clients should not count on the rule’s death – but it’s on thin ice, with an increasingly good chance of delay.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Missouri, a staunch opponent of DOL’s fiduciary rule who was recently appointed to head the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations in the 115th Congress, has already vowed that Republican lawmakers would “renew their fight” after Trump’s inauguration to “dismantle or delay” Labor’s fiduciary rule.
Wagner has also proposed the SEC Regulatory Accountability Act, which would make it more difficult for the agency to promulgate rules. The bill could come up for a vote this week. The full House could also vote on a broader regulatory easing bill, the Regulatory Accountability Act, later in the week.
As Justin Schardin, head director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Financial Regulatory Reform Initiative, noted in a recent blog, President-elect Donald Trump will have “a lot of vacancies to fill at the 10 independent financial regulatory agencies and his choices could have a major impact on the regulation of Wall Street.”
Across the 10 agencies – which includes the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Reserve Board, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – there are 34 Senate-confirmable positions that are held by 28 individuals, Schardin notes.
Besides the two open commissioner seats at the SEC, current Democratic appointee Kara Stein’s term expires in June. A confirmation hearing for Sullivan and Cromwell Partner Jay Clayton to be the new head of the SEC has yet to be scheduled.
SEC Commissioner Michael Piwowar, a Republican, will likely serve as interim chair. Filling vacant positions at the SEC, Schardin writes, “may be the top priority, in part because once [current SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo] White leaves [in January], the commission will require the support of all of its remaining members to conduct business.”