WASHINGTON — Rep. Spencer Bachus came out swinging Wednesday against speculation he may not become chairman of the House Financial Services Committee if Republicans win control of the House in the midterm elections.
The typically soft-spoken Alabama Republican told reporters "there's no question" he will be elected chairman by the Republican Steering Committee.
"I've already talked to them," Bachus said after a speech at a conference hosted by the National Association of Federal Credit Unions. "There's no question from anybody in leadership. When everyone's present, they're saying, 'You are going to be the next chairman.' "
Bachus specifically took issue with recent press accounts, including in American Banker (see related coverage here and here), which have speculated that another Republican on the panel could get the job. Possible picks have included Reps. Ed Royce of California, Scott Garrett of New Jersey and Jeb Hensarling of Texas.
Bachus insisted all such talk was mistaken.
"Go to people who make the decision, and that's not lobbyists," he said. "Go to the Steering Committee and ask them what they're thinking. As a matter of fact, go to somebody like who you all keep naming in these articles — go to them and ask them who's going to be chairman."
Bachus also said he had the backing of Republican Leader John Boehner. "I'm going to have John's support," he said. "Go ask John. Don't ask some staffer up here."
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, would only say, "Such decisions will be made by the Steering Committee at the appropriate time."
Bachus singled out the Independent Community Bankers of America, which he claims fanned speculation he will not get the job.
"I'm truly amazed at the community bankers," Bachus said during his speech. "The community bankers don't want me to be the next chairman. They've been in these rumor articles saying that I shouldn't be the chairman. But I really criticized them; they basically endorsed what is a highly mismanaged Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which I think ought to be called the Credit Allocation Bureau."
Top officials at the ICBA said they have taken no such position and have not discussed who might be chairman next year.
"I'm not sure where that came from," said Steve Verdier, a senior vice president for the group. "We have been happy to work with Rep. Bachus and have worked well with him. We want to work with Mr. Bachus and meet with him and clear up any misunderstandings."
After the speech Bachus pressed his attack against the ICBA, effectively accusing it of betraying its membership.
"I've criticized the Independent Community Bankers of America. They've endorsed the financial services bill, and they've assured their members they would be exempted and they're not," Bachus said. "They weren't part of the problem and yet their members took it on the chin. … You're going to see that independent bankers all over the country agree with me. I mean they're very upset."
Verdier said that the group did not endorse the creation of the CFPB, but "we did try to work the process to the best that we could for our members."
Although banks with assets of less than $10 billion have to comply with new rules written by the CFPB, they are exempted from enforcement by the new agency. The existing banking regulators will enforce all consumer regulations against community banks.
Speculation about the chairmanship of the Financial Services Committee has grown as the odds that the Republicans will retake the House have increased. Although Bachus is a top fund-raiser for fellow GOP lawmakers, he has let many of his subcommittee chairmen, including Garrett and Hensarling, chair hearings and take the lead on critical issues. Privately, some have said Bachus was not forceful enough against the current committee chair, Rep. Barney Frank.
Bachus acknowledged that no one knows how the November elections will play out. "We're on track to take the majority, but we have a lot of work to do," he said.
Bachus said that if he is named chairman, oversight would top his agenda. "We've had no oversight in the past four years," he said. "We've had oversight by [Rep.] Darrell Issa on the Government Oversight Committee, but our oversight committee on Financial Services is basically nonfunctioning."