Freshman Republican Ted Budd gets bank support for fight with retailers

Washington Examiner

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Washington, DC, May 17, 2017 | Joseph Lawler | comments

Republican Rep. Ted Budd of North Carolina will get an assist from the banking industry as he becomes a surprise center of controversy in a major lobbying war between the financial services industry and the retail, restaurant, and grocery store industries.

The Electronic Payments Coalition, a group that represents banks and card providers, began advertising on radio Tuesday in Budd's district, praising him for having "stood up to the big retail lobbyists" in a vote on debit card transaction fees and decrying "greedy big box retailers."

Budd, a freshman, is among just a handful of members receiving air cover for backing repeal of the so-called "Durbin Amendment." The others are senior committee members or leadership,

Instituted as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the Durbin Amendment caps rates that card providers can charge on debit cards. The measure was justified as a response to what retailers claim are anti-competitive practices by card issuers that drive up costs for businesses.

The coalition has said that the cap results in retailers gaining $6 billion to $8 billion annually, at the expense of banks. Banks maintain that their customers have had to shoulder those costs.

Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee passed sweeping legislation earlier this month that would replace Dodd-Frank. The legislative package included repeal of the cap on swipe fees, which Republicans criticized as price controls.

Lobbyists on both sides of the issue, however, anticipate that Durbin Amendment repeal will be taken out before the bill gets a vote in the full House, following a major lobbying and public relations effort on the part of retailers, grocers, restaurants, and other industry groups.

The bill, the Financial CHOICE Act, is not expected to clear the Senate and reach President Trump's desk, causing some members to balk at having to take a tough vote.

Nevertheless, the financial services industry is rewarding members who advanced the repeal, including Budd. A member of the Financial Services Committee, Budd not only voted for repeal, but also presented a forceful argument for doing so in this publication. Budd took flak from the retailers back home, in a newly-created district thought to be competitive.

"The retailers targeted a freshman member of Congress with negative ads in a competitive district – an unforgivable sin in the minds of Republican Leaders," said Sam Geduldig, a partner at CGCN Group, which represents the Electronic Payments Coalition. "In the process they have blown millions of dollars only to lose two consecutive committee votes, and poison the well for ever applying Durbin price controls to credit. That is losing, not winning." Banks and retailers have tussled over whether fee caps should also apply to credit card transactions.

"Command and control government policies benefit powerful interests as often as they do the disadvantaged. Those interests can try to make you pay a political price for trying to repeal programs like the Durbin Amendment," Budd said in a statement to the Washington Examiner.

"Ultimately, I'm pretty confident that I can make the case to voters in my district that price controls are bad policy based on bad theory. The bottom line is that Durbin has thrown a million consumers out of the banking system, and I'm going to fight it as hard as I can. I'm grateful for any support at home on this issue."

The coalition also plans ads backing more Republicans, including digital spots for the committee's chairman, Jeb Hensarling of Texas, and Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri, the chairman of the subcommittee on consumer credit.

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