Will Senate Democrats let Tim Johnson take over the Banking Committee?
The practical impact of Chris Dodd leaving the Senate this year is that chairmanship of the powerful Senate Banking Committee falls to South Dakota's Tim Johnson. This is, in short, a nightmare for consumers.
If you look at the back of your credit card bill, you'll probably see the return address is in South Dakota (or, potentially, Delaware). There's a reason for that: Credit regulation is handled by states, but credit cards are sold nationally. South Dakota realized it could gain a bunch of jobs by deregulating the industry, so the major players headquartered in the state. Bill Janklow, then governor of South Dakota, is unnervingly honest about the move. "This wasn't a credit card deal, it was a jobs deal," he told PBS. "Citibank actually drafted the legislation."
It worked. Visa is there, as is Citibank's credit card department, and many others. Regulations are virtually nonexistent. And the state's politicians are sensitive to the needs of one of their biggest industries. Last year, Johnson opposed the credit card bill that passed the Senate by a 90 to 5 majority -- which should give you some idea of what a moderate and necessary piece of legislation it was.
Senate Democrats tend to be very reticent about upending seniority, even when it's critical to the party's agenda. House Democrats aren't. They voted to replace Rep. John Dingell as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee because of his Detroit-influenced views on global warming. Senate Republicans aren't. They threatened to take Sen. Arlen Specter's chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee after he implied that an anti-Roe Supreme Court nominee wouldn't make it very far. If Senate Democrats are serious about financial regulation and consumer protections, they'll be serious about preventing this succession, at least without dramatic assurances on Johnson's part. If seniority, however, is more important to them than this issue, at this time in the country's history, then it's hard to argue that this issue was ever very important to them in the first place.
Photo credit: By Pablo Martinez Monsivai/Associated Press
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