Financial Services Policy as Pizza: Who Will Pick the Toppings?

Since the creation of the House Committee on Financial Services back in 2001, a leadership race has taken place every six years to determine which Republican gets to make their mark on the money issues. Term limits for chairs and ranking members have led each of the past three leaders to retire from the House after the conclusion of their runs — Mike Oxley, Spencer Bachus, and Jeb Hensarling. Not one to buck this historical trend, the current Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) recently announced he too would retire after six years as the top committee Republican. As is often the case, the inside the Beltway speculation machine immediately kicked into high gear after his announcement as many financial services industry insiders immediately wondered who would take over and what it could mean for them and the issues they care about.

As the operator of one particular speculation machine housed here at Cogent Strategies, and with only one official entrant in the race to succeed McHenry, I am spending less time on the who and more time on the what. I was fortunate enough to have worked with the three predecessors of Chairman McHenry and have seen enough transitions of the gavel to be capable of making at least one not-so-bold prediction: the changes to policy positions and priorities will be less substantial than many other prognosticators will predict.

Recent history suggests that the policies of the past will generally continue to be the standard GOP position in the future, regardless of who gets the big job. If you think of Republican financial services policy as a pizza, half of the toppings are selected by the committee staff, historical inertia, and statutorily required hearings. These consistently popular toppings tend to be the same from year to year, Congress to Congress and often include government accountability, taxpayer protection, and “right-sized regulation.” Add on to those offerings the toppings selected by industry stakeholders and perennial issues of interest to insurance companies, small banks and credit unions, and the pizza begins to really take shape, brimming with variety and substance before taking into account the specific desires or choices of the leader.

Having tortured this analogy as much as it can handle, the real mark of the next Republican leader will be on the prioritization of the dozen or so issues and topics that must be addressed either by that historical inertia or by current events and crises. The agenda may largely be set for 2025 and beyond, but the prioritization and focus can be adjusted based on the personal agenda of the incoming leadership. With each of the rumored candidates for the job having deep experience in the issues and previous history running subcommittees, the differences between them will be less than one might think or expect. But of course, until the elections are behind us and the Steering Committee has met, we will just have to use our imagination on what goodies this particular pizza may contain!

Dave Oxner is a managing director at Cogent Strategies. He previously served as a managing director and head of federal government relations for the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA). Prior to SIFMA, Dave spent a decade on Capitol Hill, most recently serving as senior policy advisor to Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) where he oversaw the senator’s Senate Banking Committee and Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services portfolios and previously working for the House Financial Services Committee. For Dave’s complete bio, click here