Financial Services

Democrats seek info on CFPB official’s ties to Christian group
Paul Watkins spent three years at the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats want documents from the CFPB on the hiring of Paul Watkins as director of the Office of Innovation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A group of Democrats, including presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, are continuing to pressure the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over a senior official’s ties to a conservative Christian group.

In a letter sent Wednesday to CFPB Director Kathleen Kraninger, Warren — along with Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts and Katie Porter of California — demanded documents related to hiring Paul Watkins as director of the Office of Innovation, which has the power to grant fintech firms limited immunity from consumer protection laws.

Roy Blunt pitches Negro League coin idea
Congress has authorized more than 150 commemorative coins since 1892. Will this be the next?

Sen. Roy Blunt pushed for a new commemorative coin as he visited the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in his home state of Missouri this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Roy Blunt wants a commemorative coin to honor Negro League Baseball when it celebrates its 100 year anniversary in 2020.

The Missouri Republican talked about his coin push during a tour of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, this week.

Senate Banking members take skeptical look at cryptocurrencies
Blockchain firms have tried selling lawmakers on the potential for dramatically reduced transaction costs.

Senate Banking Chairman Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, sees data privacy as one of the primary risks. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Concerns over data privacy and skepticism about just how unique and beneficial cryptocurrencies and other blockchain-based digital assets could be dominated Tuesday’s Senate Banking Committee hearing on regulating the new technology.

“This new digital currency and blockchain technology is a very real — and potentially helpful — innovation,” said Chairman Michael D. Crapo, R-Idaho. “It’s also potentially harmful as there can be some serious risk involved in it.”

Facebook’s currency plan makes fintech a tough sell in Congress
Some members are conflating disdain for Facebook with other, more vital fintech innovation, Schweikert says

House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters has criticized Facebook’s new cryptocurrency offering, Libra, calling it an “unchecked expansion” into the lives of the company’s users. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Members of Congress who support the development of new financial technologies say their job might have gotten tougher after Facebook announced its plan to issue a cryptocurrency.

Lawmakers used hearings in both chambers this month to roundly censure Facebook’s proposed Libra, which the social media company says could provide financial services to people who can’t rely on banks.

Amazon, Facebook up their K Street spending; other players dip

Facebook spent the most in its history on lobbying in this year’s second quarter. Above, CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House hearing in April of last year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Tech powerhouses Facebook and Amazon spent the most in their histories on lobbying in this year’s second quarter, propelling them into the top tier of K Street spenders, while other big players reported a decline in their lobbying investment.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, long the dominant big spender, continued its reign, despite recent turmoil in staffing and a leadership change that has raised questions about the organization’s future. The chamber, drug industry group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and Northrop Grumman reported a dip in spending in the second quarter when compared with the first three months of the year, according to just filed lobbying reports.

Mobile technology may serve underbanked with no cryptocurrency
As Facebook touts a new cryptocurrency, mobile technology companies may provide the same path with dollars

The T-Mobile logo is displayed outside of a T-Mobile store. Facebook’s new cryptocurrency, Libra, could provide banking services to underbanked populations. But some say mobile technology companies may be able to provide those services with government-backed currencies. T-Mobile teamed up with BankMobile, a division of Customer Bank, earlier this year to allow people to bank on their phones through a service called T-Mobile Money. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

As Facebook touts a new cryptocurrency as a way to serve people who are underbanked, mobile technology companies may provide the same path to financial services using good old-fashioned dollars.

The technology would avoid many risks worrying lawmakers and regulators, such as money laundering and undermining the Federal Reserve’s ability to set monetary policy. But some who track these technologies say allowing tech companies to become the bankers for the underserved carries risks of its own.

Lawmakers hint at regulatory models for Facebook cryptocurrency
Libra: ‘Which is it, fish or fowl?’

“This looks exactly like an exchange-traded fund,” said Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., (File photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House members suggested Wednesday that Facebook Inc.‘s proposed cryptocurrency could be deemed an exchange-traded fund, a currency or a commodity, all of which could require some degree of regulatory oversight.

“What we’re struggling with is: What are you?” said Democratic Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter summing up a four-hour House Financial Services Committee grilling of a company executive about the proposed cryptocurrency known as Libra.

Tension between Democratic factions spills into minimum wage debate
Progressives say they have the votes to kill their priority minimum wage bill if moderates help Republicans amend it

Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Mark Pocan, D-Wis., co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, say their members will not vote for a priority minimum wage bill if moderate Democrats help Republicans adopt a poison pill amendment. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file)

Tension between the progressive and moderate factions of the Democratic Caucus are again spilling into public view ahead of a priority party vote to raise the federal minimum wage. 

A day before a planned Thursday vote on a bill to incrementally increase the current $7.25 federal minimum wage to $15, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Mark Pocan and Pramila Jayapal issued a statement that served as a warning to their moderate colleagues. 

Facebook incurs wrath from both parties at Libra currency hearing
Bipartisan group asks why Americans should trust Facebook with their paychecks given its repeated data privacy scandals

David Marcus, head of Facebook's Calibra digital wallet service, prepares to testify during the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on "Examining Facebook's Proposed Digital Currency and Data Privacy Considerations" on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senators from both parties questioned at a hearing Tuesday why Americans should trust Facebook’s new digital currency system with their paychecks given the social media giant’s repeated data privacy scandals.

Libra, a cryptocurrency under construction by a Facebook subsidiary called Calibra, was announced in May to a blast of bipartisan incredulity by lawmakers and the Trump administration. Critics asked how the company could ensure that Libra, which is designed to be anonymous, could be prevented from being used by money launderers, traffickers or terrorists.

Road ahead: Pressure rising for debt limit deal
Lawmakers face deadline on debt even as other priorities come to floor

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other congressional leaders and the administration only have a few legislative days to strike a deal  on raising the debt limit. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Congress is set to consider several high-profile measures this week, including holding two Cabinet officials in contempt, raising the minimum wage and ratifying tax treaties, but lawmakers will be unable to avoid the contentious issue of raising the federal debt ceiling. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been speaking by phone, trying to reach agreement on avoiding a potentially calamitous debt default.