Justin Sykes

ATR Releases Coalition Letter Opposing the Postal Service Reform Act (H.R. 756)

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, February 6th, 2017, 1:34 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform, joined by 23 free market organizations, today sent an open letter to Congress urging lawmakers to oppose H.R. 756, the “Postal Service Reform Act of 2017” introduced by House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), and the Committee’s Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

Since 2007, USPS has posted more than $50 billion in losses and faces $125 billion in unfunded liabilities, despite an estimated $18 billion annually in indirect subsidies.

While reforms are needed, the Postal Service Reform Act ignores basic needed reforms to USPS, and instead increases rates, shifts USPS’s financial burden onto the American public, and allows for the diversion of resources away from the core mission of mail delivery.

Read the full letter below or here:

February 6, 2017

Open Letter to Congress:

Protecting Taxpayers and Consumers from Increased Rates, Ill-advised Reforms, and Further Exacerbation of the U.S. Postal Service’s Financial Hardships – Opposing the Postal Service Reform Act of 2017

To Members of the U.S. Congress:

We, the undersigned organizations, representing millions of taxpayers and consumers nationwide, urge Congress to oppose H.R. 756, the “Postal Service Reform Act of 2017” introduced by House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, and the Committee’s Ranking Member Elijah Cummings.

For years, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has suffered from operational and financial inefficiencies, and while reforms are needed, H.R. 756 misses the mark and may actually exacerbate the issues facing USPS.

The USPS enjoys a monopoly on the delivery of first-class and standard mail and is exempt from state and local sales, income, and property taxes. The USPS also has the power of eminent domain, is not subject to local zoning ordinances, and has borrowed billions from the Treasury at subsidized interest rates.

Despite such special treatment, which is estimated to be $18 billion annually in indirect subsidies, USPS’s financial health is continually waning. Since 2007, USPS has posted more than $50 billion in losses and faces $125 billion in unfunded liabilities. Much of this stems from USPS’s inability to adapt to changing markets, congressional impediments, and union quagmires.

Many of the reforms provided for in H.R. 756 lead USPS further away from the core mission of mail delivery, unfairly shift the Postal Service’s financial burdens onto the American public, and fail to address many of the underlying issues facing USPS.

Postal Rate Reforms and Increases. Chairman Chaffetz’s reform bill would allow the Postal Service to increase rates by 2.15 percent on monopoly products such as stamps. Monopoly products generate the bulk of USPS profits. Increasing rates will only reduce revenue and further drive more consumers away from USPS products and services. 

Diversion to Nonpostal Products and Services. Key provisions contained in H.R. 756 would allow the Postal Service to divert resources away from the core mission of mail delivery to providing nonpostal products and services to state, local, and tribal governments and federal agencies. The Act creates a “Chief Innovation Officer” tasked with managing the development and implementation of nonpostal products. While intended to generate new sources of revenue, such provisions are only a point of distraction, and will see the Postal Service further competing with private firms.

Postal Service Governance Reform. The USPS Board of Governors is comprised of nine members, not including the Postmaster General and Deputy Postmaster General, who are Presidentially appointed and confirmed by the Senate and serve seven-year terms. Since 2015, the Board of Governors has had only one Governor serving due to congressional hurdles. H.R. 756 would reduce the USPS Board of Governors from a nine-member board to a five-member board. This hollow reform does nothing to actually improve USPS governance, and instead reinforces the fact that most of the provisions in the bill are simply reforms for the sake of reforms, having no real impact on the status quo.     

We recognize the need for reforming the U.S. Postal Service. However Chairman Chaffetz’s Postal Service Reform Act ignores basic needed reforms to USPS, and instead increases rates, shifts USPS’s financial burden onto the American public, and allows for the diversion of resources away from the core mission of mail delivery.

It is for these reasons that we ask members of Congress to oppose this legislation.  

Grover G. Norquist                                           
Americans for Tax Reform                                    

David Williams                                                
Taxpayers Protection Alliance                                                            

Jim Martin                                                        
60 Plus Association                                          

Phil Kerpen                                                    
American Commitment                                        

John M. Palatiello                                             
Business Coalition for Fair Competition                                                        

Norm Singleton                                                           
Campaign for Liberty                                             

Andrew F. Quinlan
Center for Freedom and Prosperity                                                                       

Jeffrey L. Mazzella                                            
Center for Individual Freedom                                   

Col. Francis X. De Luca                                                              
Civitas Institute                                                 
 

Tom Schatz                                                     
Council for Citizens Against Government Waste          

Chuck Muth                                                     
Citizen Outreach                                               

Katie McAuliffe                                              
Digital Liberty   

Adam Brandon
Freedom Works

George C. Landrith
​Frontiers of Freedom

Mario Lopez
Hispanic Leadership Fund

Sabrina Schaeffer
Independent Women's Forum

Andrew Langer
Institute for Liberty

Kory Swanson
John Locke Foundation

Seton Motley
Less Government

Willes K. Lee
National Federation of Republican Assemblies

Kevin Kosar
R Street Institute 

Karen Kerrigan
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

Ryan Alexander
Taxpayers for Common Sense

Judson Phillips
Tea Party Nation

 

Photo credit: MoneyBlogNewz                                                          

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ATR Supports the Agency Accountability Act (H.R. 850)

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Friday, February 3rd, 2017, 4:34 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform this week released a letter to Congressional lawmakers urging support for Representative Gary Palmer's (R-Ala.) Agency Accountability Act (AAA), H.R. 850. 

Congress has granted agencies the authority to collect fines, fees, and other revenues outside of appropriated funds. While most of these funds are used to offset appropriations, a large portion are used by agencies to self-fund programs and operations outside of the normal appropriations process.

H.R. 850 would correct this discrepancy by requiring that all fines, fees, penalties, and other unappropriated proceeds, be directed to the Treasury, thus making them subject to the appropriations process. Agencies would still receive the funds required to exercise their standard functions, but those funds would now be placed back under Congressional oversight.

Below is the text of the letter, which can also be found here.

February 3, 2017

Dear Members of Congress,

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) urges your support of H.R. 850, the Agency Accountability Act (AAA), introduced by Representative Gary Palmer (R-Ala.). Representative Palmer’s H.R. 850 would increase transparency and oversight of the funds collected by federal agencies and in doing so would help to restore Congress’s Article I authority by subjecting such funds to the appropriations process. 

Congress has granted agencies the authority to collect fines, fees, and revenue, with a portion of those funds being used to offset appropriations. However, some of these funds do not receive Congressional oversight as to how they are spent, leaving agencies to use those funds to finance programs and functions outside of the typical appropriations process. According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in 2015 the federal government collected over $500 billion in user fees alone.

Congress’s “power of the purse” is thus being usurped as billions in annual revenue from fines and fees levied by federal agencies escapes the appropriations process. For instance, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) receive no appropriated funds from Congress. 

H.R. 850 would work to correct such discrepancies by requiring that all fines, fees, penalties, and other unappropriated proceeds, be directed to the Treasury, thus making them subject to the appropriations process. Agencies would still receive the funds required to exercise their standard functions, but those funds would now be placed back under Congressional oversight.       

H.R. 850 is a positive measure to increase Congressional oversight over the actions of federal agencies, thus improving the overall transparency and accountability of the federal government. 

I urge you to support and vote for H.R. 850, the Agency Accountability Act. 

Sincerely,                               

Grover G. Norquist                                                    

President                                                                     
Americans for Tax Reform

 

Photo credit: Jason Ippolito

  

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President Trump Should Target Durbin Amendment Repeal

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Friday, February 3rd, 2017, 1:01 PM PERMALINK

This week President Donald Trump is set to order a regulatory rollback for the financial industry with his sights set on the Dodd-Frank Act. As the Trump Administration begins taking action to relieve consumers and businesses of the massive Dodd-Frank regulatory burden, the Administration should begin with one of the most onerous and failed Dodd-Frank policies – the Durbin Amendment.

Passed as part of the Dodd-Frank Act, the Durbin Amendment allows the government to set price controls on fees for debit card transactions. Prior to enactment of Durbin, these fees were not capped, and issuers of debit cards, such as credit unions and banks, were encouraged by free market competition to offer consumers benefits, such as free checking accounts.

However since Durbin was passed, not only have free checking accounts and other consumer benefits disappeared, but so has access to the banking system for many low-to-middle income Americans.

Before Durbin was enacted in 2009, 76 percent of banks offered free checking accounts. After Durbin was passed, that number fell to 45 percent in 2011, 39 percent in 2012, and an all time low of 37 percent in 2015. As a result of this decline, many low-to-middle income Americans have been pushed out of the banking system. This has led to over 1 million Americans becoming “unbanked.”

Yet the regressive trends resulting from Durbin are not the only concerning outcome. In passing Durbin, proponents of the Amendment argued that consumers would receive the benefits of merchants receiving a fee break on debt transactions. However, almost zero of those benefits were passed along to consumers. 

Studies show that instead of consumers receiving price breaks as a result of the fee cap, 77 percent of merchants have not changed prices, while 22 percent have actually increased prices. Such unfulfilled promises only harm, not help, American consumers.

The Durbin Amendment has not only failed at its stated goal of benefiting the American consumer, but has actually achieved the exact opposite. Instead of consumers seeing price cuts, prices have stayed the same or increased, and Americans have been driven out of the banking system leading to millions becoming unbanked.

The Durbin Amendment is failed policy. Hopefully for the millions of unbanked Americans and consumers seeing costs rise, President Trump will act to right the ship and target the Durbin Amendment for repeal, before the ill-fated consequences of this terrible policy become even worse. 

 

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

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ATR Supports the "Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act of 2017" (H.R. 732)

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Wednesday, February 1st, 2017, 5:23 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform this week released a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to support H.R. 732, the "Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act of 2017." H.R. 732, introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, would ensure money recovered by the government as part of Department of Justice (DOJ) settlement agreements is returned to the American people.

Currently, whenever the DOJ settles a lawsuit with a corporation or individual, DOJ officials can require defendants to "donate" money to activist groups as part of the terms of the settlement. These groups are typically working towards the same ideological goals as the Executive Branch, and are engaged in activities such as voter registration, community organizing, and donating money to similar ideological groups. 

In 2016 similar legislation was passed out of the House with both Democrat and Republican support, but failed to pass the Senate.

With a new Congress, House and Senate lawmakers should again look to pass this common sense legislation that will hold the Executive Branch accountable for its practices and ensure money recovered by the government is returned to the American people.

 

The language of the letter is below and can also be found here:

February 1, 2017

The Honorable Bob Goodlatte
Chairman, House Judiciary Committee
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515 

Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Members of the Judiciary Committee:

I write in support of H.R. 732, the Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act of 2017, legislation that would prohibit Department of Justice (DOJ) officials from crafting settlement agreements that require donations to activists groups that are favored by the Administration. All members of Congress should support this important legislation. 

As it currently stands, when the DOJ settles a lawsuit Department officials can require defendants to donate money to certain activist groups as part of the terms of the settlement. Not only are these funds not going to deserving victims but more often than not are awarded to activist groups that hold the same ideological views as the Executive.

According to House Judiciary Committee findings, roughly half-a-billion dollars has been diverted away from victims and directed to activist groups in just the last 20 months. Such “slush fund” payments occur outside of the Congressional appropriations and oversight process. 

H.R. 732 would prohibit abusive DOJ slush fund payments to activist groups and ensure money recovered in settlements is returned to the American people where it belongs. This bill ensures settlement money goes directly to victims or alternatively to the Treasury where elected officials determine how it is spent.

I urge the Judiciary Committee and all members of Congress to support H.R. 732, the Stop the Settlement Slush Funds Act of 2017.

Sincerely,                               

Grover G. Norquist                                                    

President                                                                     
Americans for Tax Reform

 

Photo credit: Phil Roeder   

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ATR Urges Congress to Repeal SEC Resource Extraction Rule (Sec. 1504)

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Wednesday, February 1st, 2017, 1:55 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform this week released a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging Congressional lawmakers to use the authority granted under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) rule relating to resource extraction pursuant to section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act - commonly referred to as the Resource Extraction Rule. 

While the SEC's stated mission is to "protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation", the Resource Extraction Rule accomplishes none of these goals. Instead, the SEC rule's required disclosure of proprietary information and resulting compliance burden actually harms, not helps, investors and impedes capital formation.  

The content of the letter to Congress is below and can also be found here

January 31, 2017

The Honorable Paul Ryan
Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell:

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) I write to express ATR’s strong support for using the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) rule relating to resource extraction pursuant to section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

While increased transparency is a laudable goal, the SEC rule falls short of achieving this goal in a sensible and productive manner. Instead, the SEC’s Resource Extraction Rule under section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act has created an excessive compliance burden that puts U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage internationally, and actually harms rather than protects investors.

The SEC rule adds to an already unreasonable compliance burden on U.S. companies. The SEC’s own estimates found that the ongoing compliance costs of the resource extraction rule would between $173 million and $385 million annually.

Additionally, by requiring U.S. companies to publicly disclose proprietary information under the rule, the SEC is giving America’s international competitors an enormous advantage in the global market. Such unnecessary and self-inflicted regulatory wounds only serve to reduce American prosperity by harming U.S. competitiveness and consumers in the long run.  

The SEC’s stated mission is to “protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation.” However the required disclosure of proprietary information and resulting compliance burden from the Resource Extraction Rule serves only to harm investors and shareholders and impede capital formation. 

I urge you and your colleagues in Congress to use the authority granted under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the SEC’s Resource Extraction Rule.

Sincerely,                               

Grover G. Norquist                                                    

President                                                                    
Americans for Tax Reform

 

Photo credit: Guy Middleton

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ATR Urges Repeal of Stream Protection Rule Under Congressional Review Act

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, January 30th, 2017, 10:00 AM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform this week released a letter for House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging Congressional lawmakers to use the authority granted under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement's (OSM) Stream Protection Rule. 

The letter expresses the concern that the OSM's Stream Protection Rule is an egregious and unlawful example of federal regulatory overreach that infringes on the authority of state regulatory bodies, is wholly unnecessary, and will impact the livelihoods of millions of Americans. 

The letter can be viewed below or here

January 30, 2017

The Honorable Paul Ryan
Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell:

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) I write to express ATR’s strong support for using the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s (OSM) Stream Protection Rule.

The OSM’s Stream Protection Rule is an egregious and unlawful example of federal regulatory overreach that infringes on the authority of state regulatory bodies, is wholly unnecessary, and will impact the livelihood of millions of Americans.      

The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act instructs that States are to be the primary regulators of coal mining. In drafting the Stream Protection Rule, OSM failed to comply with these instructions, instead moving forward without real or meaningful involvement from the public or the relevant state agencies that are tasked with regulating 97 percent of the coal mines in the U.S.

The Department of Interior’s own reports show that essentially all coal mines have no off-site impacts, that lands are being restored successfully, and mines are being operated safely and in accordance with existing state and federal regulations. The Stream Protection Rule is simply a regulation in search of a problem.    

It is also the case the OSM rule will have far reaching impacts on the American economy. The rule threatens one-third of the nation’s coal mining work force and would remove half or more of total U.S. coal reserves from future production. The rule would also drive up electricity costs for American consumers and could reduce state and federal tax revenue by over $6 billion annually.

I urge you and your colleagues in Congress to use the authority granted under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the OSM’s Stream Protection Rule.

Sincerely,                               

Grover G. Norquist                                                    

President                                                                    
Americans for Tax Reform

 

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ATR Urges Repeal of BLM Methane Rule Under Congressional Review Act

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, January 30th, 2017, 9:00 AM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform this week released a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging Congressional lawmakers to use the authority granted under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Waste Production, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation Rule - commonly referred to as the BLM Methane Rule. 

The letter expresses the concern that BLM not only lacks the statutory authority to enact the Methane Rule, but that the rule is also duplicative and wholly unnecessary. 

The letter can be viewed below or here:

January 30, 2017

The Honorable Paul Ryan
Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell:

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) I write to express ATR’s strong support for using the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Waste Production, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation Rule – commonly referred to as the BLM Methane Rule.

The BLM Methane Rule is a product of federal regulatory overreach, released in the eleventh hour by the Obama Administration, serving only to preserve the former President’s legacy at the expense of responsible U.S. energy production.

BLM not only lacks the statutory authority to enact the Methane Rule, but the rule is also duplicative and wholly unnecessary.      

Under the Clean Air Act the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in conjunction with the states, is vested with the sole authority to regulate air quality. By releasing the Methane Rule, BLM is attempting to regulate air quality and has thus exceeded its statutorily granted authority.

It is also the case that EPA last year finalized rules to regulate methane emissions on top of existing state regulations. Thus the BLM’s rule is wholly duplicative and adds to an already substantial regulatory burden on American energy production.      

Furthermore, the Methane Rule is a regulation in search of a problem. Since 1990 natural gas production has increased by almost 50 percent, while methane emissions from oil and gas development have declined by over 20 percent thanks to advances in technology.

I urge you and your colleagues in Congress to use the authority granted under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the BLM’s Methane Rule.

Sincerely,                               

Grover G. Norquist                                                     

President                                                                     
Americans for Tax Reform

 

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ATR Joins Coalition Urging Confirmation of Scott Pruitt as EPA Head

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, January 12th, 2017, 1:26 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform this week joined over 20 other free market organizations in sending a letter to U.S. Senators supporting and urging confirmation of Attorney General Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Highlights from the letter are below with a PDF of the full letter

"Attorney General Pruitt has consistently fought for Oklahoma families and communities and has been a stalwart defender against federal intrusion into state and individual rights. Notably, Mr. Pruitt led a multi-state effort opposing the EPA's unlawful attempt to take over the nation's electricity grid under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act," the letter states. 

In addition to Mr. Pruitt's work fighting Obama's Clean Air Act overreach, the letter also cites that, "Attorney General Pruitt has stood up for states, families, and the Constitution by opposing the Administration's unconstitutional regulatory overreach through the re-definition of the waters of the United States." 

Both the Clean Power Plan and Waters of the U.S. Rule infringe state sovereignty, impede the Constitution, and will have far reaching negative impacts on jobs, income, and economic prosperity across America if they are allowed to move forward.

Americans for Tax Reform supports all the work Mr. Pruitt has done to fight these instances of overreach and others, and urges Senators to support his confirmation as EPA Administrator. 

 

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ATR Statement on Obama's Offshore Ban

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, December 22nd, 2016, 11:31 AM PERMALINK

Washington – ATR President Grover Norquist issued the following statement this week in response to President Obama’s announcement that he will indefinitely ban new oil and gas offshore drilling leases in vast areas of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans:

“President Obama’s announcement this week that he will ban oil and gas drilling leases in large parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans is an unprecedented and ideologically driven move to appease far left environmentalists undertaken in the waning hours of his administration.   

“Obama’s move to ban oil and gas drilling chokes off the vast economic potential these areas would offer the American economy through increased energy production and the creation of good paying jobs. In the Arctic alone, these areas are estimated to hold 27 billion barrels of oil and over 130 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

“Obama’s actions are all too typical of a president concerned only with ‘green’ vanity at the expense of American prosperity. ATR looks forward to working with President-elect Trump to undo this and a number of other economically disastrous policies put forth under the Obama administration.”  

 

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Toomey Targets Dodd-Frank with Reconciliation

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Friday, December 9th, 2016, 3:22 PM PERMALINK

This week Senator Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) called on the Senate to begin reforming the Dodd-Frank Act through a legislative procedure known as reconciliation. Senator Toomey’s call to rein in Dodd-Frank through reconciliation is a positive step toward protecting taxpayers, consumers, and U.S. businesses from the crushing and burdensome tangle of regulations that is Dodd-Frank.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Senator Toomey stated:

“For too long now we’ve been putting up with a Dodd-Frank bill that is costing us a lot of economic growth and opportunity. I am hoping our Democratic colleagues will work with us so that we can begin to make the constructive changes that we need. But if not, I think we should use all tools available to get this job done.”

One of tools available that Senator Toomey suggested is a process known as reconciliation. By using the reconciliation process, lawmakers could make legislative changes to the Dodd-Frank Act with a simple majority in the Senate. Since Senate Republicans will occupy 52 seats in the Upper Chamber next year, this would allow them to make changes to the law and prevent Senate Democrats from filibustering those efforts.

Senator Toomey has also made it clear one of the first targets of reform will be the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an independent agency created by the Dodd-Frank Act. Created less than six years ago, the CFPB has developed into a regulatory monster issuing nearly 50 rules at a rate 3.5 times faster than any other government agency.

The CFPB is currently not subject to the Congressional appropriations process, and “their funding makes them completely unaccountable to anyone other than themselves,” Senator Toomey said.

His fellow Republican colleagues in the Senate echoed the sentiments expressed by Toomey this week regarding Dodd-Frank reforms. Chairman of the Senate Baking Committee Richard Shelby (R-Alaska) stated Wednesday, “I’d like to repeal the whole thing, period.”

Dodd-Frank reforms are also receiving increased attention on the House side as well. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) this year introduced the Financial CHOICE Act to overhaul Dodd-Frank, an effort that will see a reenergized push in 2017 with Republicans controlling both the legislative and executive branches.  

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