Senate Panel Approves Credit Card Reform, Minus One Democrat
The Senate Banking Committee today approved legislation forcing banks to make credit cards more consumer friendly, but don’t mistake this for a strictly partisan issue. While it’s true that most Democrats support the legislation and most Republicans oppose it (the panel vote was 12-11), there are regional nuances in this debate as well.
Take Sen. Tim Johnson. The South Dakotan was the lone Democrat on the banking panel to vote against the bill.
The reason? Well, officially, Johnson said the bill “goes too far in prohibiting lenders from adjusting prices to account for increased risk.” (Among other things, the bill requires companies to give 45 days notice when raising interest rates and prohibits issuers from applying rate increases to existing balances — the types of things that would prevent rates from jumping 20 or 30 percent overnight because of a single late payment.)
Yet South Dakota also happens to be a hub for some of the largest credit card operations in the country, including Citibank. Johnson is clearly protecting the regional industry here, and his opposition to the bill forecasts a tough fight ahead for reform supporters. Indeed, Delaware — another center of credit card activity — is home to Sen. Tom Carper, another Democrat with a history of protecting the industry.
As the stalled cramdown bill has shown, the finance industry has plenty of influence even when the issues aren’t regional. With two Senate Democrats already defending the industry over consumers, the race to 60 is sure to be close.