WASHINGTON — Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby announced Friday he was pushing back a planned vote on regulatory relief until May 21, a week after it was initially scheduled.
The move came just after all 10 panel Democrats said they would oppose the bill because all of them had not yet seen it.
The details of Shelby's legislation are still unclear, though it is expected to revamp provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, which makes Democrats nervous.
Industry representatives said they remain optimistic that the bill can ultimately move forward.
"This is a process and some members of the committee are concerned about the openness of the process," said James Ballentine, the chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association. "Those issues can be overcome and based on our conversations with members of both sides of the aisle there is a strong desire to reach agreement on regulatory relief."
Shelby plans to share the legislation with Democrats on Monday, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Republican said.
The spokeswoman said that a draft of the bill had already been shared with the panel's top Democrat, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who was given it on May 1. A spokesman for Brown confirmed that was the case, but said it was given to the Democrat "on the condition that we did not share it outside our immediate committee staff" and that they "honored that request."
Analysts said Shelby delayed the vote in an attempt to take the "process" issue out of the equation. They said at least some Democrats are likely to support the bill when it finally comes up for a vote.
"Shelby is trying to beat back questions about process," said Ed Mills, an analyst with FBR Capital Markets. "If the only thing keeping Democrats together is arguing over fairness of the process, if give them a more fair process and they are still opposed, Shelby can call them out on that. At a certain point the process argument doesn't hold water."
In their letter, the panel's Democrats made it clear they were not opposed to the intent of the bill, but were unwilling to be rushed to a vote.
"Last week, you told the Independent Community Bankers of America that the committee will move whatever is doable, and we agree. We are ready, willing, and able to work with you to provide regulatory relief to financial institutions like community banks and credit unions," the Democrats said. "However, a markup in one week on a broader proposal will not lead to a positive outcome."
Shelby had originally scheduled a vote for May 14, but pushed it back a week after Democrats raised objections.
The Alabama Republican offered some hints last month about what might be included in a relief bill during remarks before the ICBA. He sounded some support for potential changes to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's "qualified mortgage" standard, as well as for extending the examination cycle for well-performing banks. The bill is also expected to tackle the Dodd-Frank Act's provision that requires banks with more than $50 billion of assets to be subject to higher capital and liquidity standards. Exactly how Shelby planned to address the issue is unclear. He could seek to raise it, let regulators define a new threshold or scrap it altogether.
The Democrats are concerned the bill will seek too many changes to the Dodd-Frank Act, instead of more limited alterations they might support. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has warned that larger banks are attempting to add provisions to the bill, which is primarily designed to help smaller institutions.
While Republicans control the Senate, they need at least some Democratic votes to ensure any bill would be able to overcome a potential filibuster. However, Shelby can also attempt to move provisions through the Congressional appropriations process, attaching them to a must-pass spending bill. That gives Shelby, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, an advantage, analysts said.
"The fact that he has another shot in Appropriations gives him the upper hand in these negotiations," said Mills.