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Rep. Bachus Unlikely to Drink the Tea

Adam Rust's picture

Posted November 3, 2010

Now that the GOP has won the majority in the House of Representatives, Rep. Spencer Bachus seems poised to assume control of the House Financial Services Committee.

The Financial Services committee had been chaired by Rep. Barney Frank. It was the wellspring of the Dodd-Frank Act. Frank won his district and will continue to serve in the committee, but the customs of the House allow the majority party to control most of the affairs of the body. Bachus is in, Frank is out, and the rest is yet to come.

Tea Party activism may have powered much of the change that led to the new House, but they won't find

much in common with Spencer Bachus when it comes to financial affairs.

Rep. Bachus is well-insulated from any kind of dissent.  He has been in the House since 1993. His district is made up of what was left over after a redistricting effort mandated by the Justice Department to create a majority black district in Birmingham. Many of the minority and liberal portions of the Birmingham that had been in the 6th district were drawn into the 7th. Last night, Terri Sewell earned 72.5 percent of votes  in the 6th.  Rep. Bachus ran unopposed in the 6th in 2010. In 2006, he got  98 percent of the vote.

The districts are cut in such a way as to create a demographic divide: the 6th is 89.9 percent non-white Hispanic, while the 7th is 62 percent black. Average personal income is almost $50,000 in the 6th, but less than $28,000 in the 7th. Sewell will have the Black Belt. Bachus represents Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills.

Congressional Quarterly calls the 6th District "safe."  Saddam Hussein had a harder time winning over his electorate than Spencer Bachus does. Yea, democracy! All of this underscores why Rep. Bachus should feel free to vote his mind in Congress. He doesn't need to sift tea leaves.

So, what kind of perspective does Bachus bring to money? I would say that he has a fairly interesting set of convictions.

For one, he has some instinct to use government to intervene in transactions that cause problems for consumer or for third parties. He is vocal about restricting the ability of online poker. He was a co-sponsor of two bills that put the stops to internet gambling. Since many online players facilitate some steps in their transactions through prepaid card firms, this was impactful legislation. Does that mean that Bachus is going to back the shift toward the spirit of disclosure that drives the CFPB? Hard to say. Certainly, he understands that there are some instances when the desire of a consumer to use a financial product merits government intervention.

Bachus didn't like the Small Business Lending ActElizabeth Warren felt the same way.

Second, he was fairly active in inserting protections against identity theft into the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Third, he seems to have some generosity for the less fortunate. He supports international debt relief. He even fasted for a day in support of the Jubilee. Bachus worships at a mega-church in suburban Birmingham.

He's also a fairly active options trader.

He's not at all reticent to criticize Section 8.

Last month, Bachus' offices released a press release demanding the end of bailouts for Fannie and Freddie. Certainly, that would be a big shift. At the same time, how much is that kind of statement merely a pledge driven by symbolism?

It is a fact that the CFPB will be changed by last night's vote. The new chair of the House Financial Services Committee comes from a bullet-proof white upper class district in central Alabama. That's a far cry from the previous situation.

Bachus' inclinations to use his position in the Financial Services Committee could be very critical for the implementation of the CFPB. While the ink is dry on Dodd-Frank, the rule making process that will govern the new division is still very much up in the air. The Bureau isn't scheduled to be fully operational until next summer.

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