From Secret McConnell Audio, 12 Destructive Things a GOP Senate Will Do

Richard Eskow

If Republicans take the Senate next month (and if he wins his own reelection race), Sen. Mitch McConnell will be that body’s next majority leader. Then what happens?

McConnell’s been frank about what the GOP would do with the Senate – at least when he thinks nobody’s listening. This quote comes from audio, obtained by Undercurrent’s Lauren Windsor, of a talk McConnell gave to a Koch Brothers group in August:

“Most things in the Senate require 60 (votes) … but not the budget. So in the House and Senate, we own the budget. What does that mean?

“… No money can be spent to do this or do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board …”

McConnell attacked the Dodd/Frank financial reform bill in further audio obtained by this week by Windsor, calling it “Obamacare for banks.”

McConnell said he would “definitely” defund the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, calling it “the biggest part of the Dodd/Frank bill.”

But then, that’s been his position all along. Senate Republicans refused to accept anyone’s nomination to lead the CFPB when it was formed. Said McConnell at the time: “We’re simply not going to … confirm him or anybody else to this agency that shouldn’t exist in its current form.”

Last year McConnell remarked, “If I had my way, we wouldn’t have the [CFPB] at all.”

The course of action McConnell lays out in these audio clips would:

1. Expose Americans to toxic threats, and make additional disasters like the BP oil spill more likely.

Cuts in Environmental Protection Agency funding are intended to meet the GOP’s stated goal of deregulating high-polluting industries like those of the Koch brothers themselves. That would lead to more fracking, more poisons in the groundwater, a higher risk of water-supply crises like the one recently experienced in West Virginia, increased air pollution …

The result? A sicker population which is at greater risk of environmental disaster.

2. Deprive millions of Americans of health insurance.

The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect. But it has extended health insurance to millions of Americans, both through the exchanges and through Medicaid extensions at the state level (excepting those states where Republican governors have refused to accept Federal funds for that purpose).

Denying funding for the law would, in all likelihood, close down the exchanges and end the Medicaid program. That would lead to thousands of additional deaths like that of Charlene Dill, a young working mother in Florida. (We discussed her death and related topics with Rep. Alan Grayson here).

In addition, millions of Americans would lose their exchange-based health insurance under a Republican Senate, including people who have pre-existing conditions or are under 26 years old.

3, Ensure that money that financial institutions obtain dishonestly – money like the $4.6 billion the CFPB has already returned to consumers – would remain in the banks’ pockets from now on.

The CFPB reports that it arranged the return of $4.6 billion in improperly obtained fees in its first three years of operation. The money was distributed to 15 million customers. In addition, more than three-quarters of a million customers will receive remediation from financial institutions (that is, they’ll be made whole) as a result of the CFPB’s actions.

These actions will stop under a McConnell-led Senate, according to the Senator himself.

4, Give a green light for credit-card companies to resume the “deceptive marketing practices” and other abuses that the CFPB has red-flagged.

In its very first enforcement action the CFPB ordered giant credit-card company Capitol One to repay $150 million to ripped-off customers, as well as $60 million to regulators, after the CFPB and another agency identified dishonest marketing practices that resulted in people being saddled with costly and ineffective add-on services they didn’t want or need.

Since then a total of three major credit card companies (American Express and Discover are the others) have returned a total of $425 million. Interventions like this would end under a GOP Senate, according to McConnell, and credit-card companies would be free to resume their past deceptive practices.

5. Make credit-card agreements and mortgage documents harder to understand.

The CFPB’s rule require credit-card companies and mortgage lenders to write their agreements in plain English. That will end if McConnell has his way.

The end result? Mortgage agreements that are impossible to understand, with provisions that could lead to foreclosure and/or prove financially ruinous to borrowers.

6. Make it harder to shop for student loans.

Defunding the CFPB would put an end to rules that make it easier for students and their families to comparison-shop for student loans.

The student-loan ombudsman’s office, which reviews complaints about student loans, would also be shut down.

7. Decrease oversight of credit bureaus.

That would mean, among other things, that it would become harder for you to obtain your own credit report or correct misinformation on your credit record.

8. Close down the CFPB complaint database.

Consumers can now complain to the CFPB whenever they feel they have been cheated, abused, or misled by financial institutions. The CFPB tracks these complaints and intervenes with lenders where appropriate to resolve problems.

That would end, according to McConnell, under a Republican Senate.

9. Increase racial discrimination in auto loans.

The CFPB has been active in monitoring racial discrimination in auto lending, through its review of the business practice of the “indirect lenders” who underwrite these loans. That would stop.

The remediation that has occurred under this program would also end if the Republican Senate and House act as McConnell indicates they would.

10. Protect “too big to fail” banks.

Although Mitch McConnell claims otherwise, defunding Dodd/Frank would be a boon for too-big-to-fail banks. While he claims the law benefits them, the evidence suggests otherwise. As Mike Konczal observes in The New Republic, banks would pursue that designation if it were advantageous to them. Instead they’re making every effort to avoid the label.

11. Help shady derivatives dealers.

While more needs to be done, the Dodd/Frank law was a definite improvement over the status quo. Konczal also offers a good overview of its other useful features, most of which would cease to exist if McConnell and the Republicans make good on their threats.

12. Allow more sneaky dealing in mortgages.

In Undercurrent’s audio clips, McConnell seems to suggest that mortgage lenders didn’t contribute to the 2008 financial crisis. This is nonsense. Fraud and excessive risk-taking were endemic throughout the mortgage financing system, from the underwriting of new loans to the bundling and selling of mortgages to third parties. That epidemic of fraud and risk-taking was central to the financial crisis, and to a massive loss of wealth for the American majority.

Americans were persuaded to take out loans without understanding their provisions, based on deceitful projections of their homes’ future worth. Investors were deceived, too, as banks knowingly and deceptively bundled and sold junk-value mortgages as high-grade investments (with the collusion of the ratings “agencies”).

“I have a friend who runs a mortgage business,” McConnell says on the audio recording, “and he says the cost of writing a mortgage has gone up $1,000 for him.”

Underwriting a mortgage clearly takes more time and effort than generating reams of “liars’ loans.” Businesses would not rather bother, especially when it’s more lucrative to cut corners. That’s why they support politicians like Mitch McConnell – and why the rest of us shouldn’t.

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