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Durbin Vows to Fight Republican Funding Cuts for Regulators

U.S. Senator Richard Durbin, the deputy majority leader, said he would “do my best” to fight Republican efforts to cut funding for regulatory agencies including the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“I’m going to work to ensure that the Federal Reserve funds this agency as Congress intended,” Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said today in a conference call with reporters.

Durbin also said he would try to protect budgets for the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which have received additional oversight tasks under the Dodd-Frank regulatory overhaul.

Republican proposals would make “dramatic cuts in the agencies that have the greatest responsibility for Dodd-Frank,” he said.

Under Dodd-Frank, which President Barack Obama signed into law in July, the consumer bureau gets a percentage of the Federal Reserve’s operating budget, as much as $500 million per year. The agency’s director decides how much is needed.

The bureau would need $134 million for 2011, according to the Obama administration’s budget. House Republicans want to limit the Fed from giving it more than $80 million, a 40 percent cut.

Americans for Financial Reform, an umbrella group of labor unions, civil rights organizations and consumer advocates, arranged the conference call with Durbin, who also is chairman of the financial services subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Durbin Amendment

Durbin also said there is “no way to guarantee” that the Senate will not vote on a repeal of the Durbin Amendment, the part of Dodd-Frank that requires the Fed to regulate the “swipe fees” that merchants pay to debit-card issuers. Banks are currently lobbying hard to revisit the issue.

“Every day, members of the Senate offer amendments,” one of which could be a repeal of the swipe-fee rule, Durbin said.

Durbin also declined to throw his weight behind a CFTC proposal for user fees to help finance the work of the agency, which has responsibility for derivatives regulation. He said the “competition in these markets is now global” and that user fees risk driving business out of the United States.

“I’m not jumping on this bandwagon until we look at that issue seriously,” Durbin said.

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