Obama’s SEC chair defies congressional Republicans and American electorate

Mary Jo White might sound as sweet as your grandmother, but she’s the fiercest opponent to Republican hopes of repealing the Dodd-Frank financial law.

The chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission has notified Congress that she will keep issuing new rules until the last minute of Obama’s term. Presidential elections and the American electorate be damned. White does what she wants.

The 69-year-old independent will retire when Trump takes office. Until then, Reuters reports, White will push new regulatory “rules on everything from derivatives to mutual funds.” That decision not to slow implementation of Dodd-Frank regulation threatens to shakeup markets and has left the GOP scrambling.

Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee Richard Shelby and Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho pleaded with White in a Dec. 12 letter to delay adopting any new rules until next year. She declined, noting that the SEC has “historically proceeded with its work” when the nation’s between presidents.

Earlier Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee Jeb Hensarling got the same response. A bit frosty after the exchange, he accused White of “defying the will of the American people” and blasted her midnight rulemaking as fundamentally inconsistent “with the principles of democratic accountability.”

And while he might be right, there’s nothing he can do for now. After passing a stopgap spending bill, Congress skipped town last week. White hasn’t taken recess. The foreman of the financial regulator, she’ll stay at her post until Jan. 20 keeping the SEC at a steady hum as it churns out more and more financial regulation.

Thanks to the Congressional Review Act, lawmakers will have 60 days to review and overturn each of the rules. Throwing out a rule requires majorities in both chambers and the president’s signature. But that scrutiny could prove tedious depending on White’s efficiency. Each additional regulation further cements the controversial Dodd-Frank law and sets back President-elect Trump.

Republicans aren’t alone in their frustration with White. She also got under the skin of progressive Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who urged President Obama to fire the little old regulator when she refused to regulate political speech.

That ongoing showdown earned her the editorial praise of the Wall Street Journal recently. “A year ago I called your leadership at the SEC extremely disappointing,” Warren told White at a Senate hearing in June, the Journal reports, “today, I am more disappointed than ever.”

Sitting alone in front of the committee and confronting the progressive giant, White answered, “I’m disappointed in your disappointment.” Admirable though conditional, that defiance now seems misplaced.

The incoming executive ran on repealing Dodd-Frank and slashing regulation. The electorate responded. The law’s days are numbered. Adding additional layers of regulation is clearly counterproductive and undemocratic by definition. By staying at her post and undermining the incoming administration, White stands in the way.

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