GOP’s regulatory fight goes to another level over car loans

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-led Congress is poised to undo Obama-era guidance a consumer protection agency issued five years ago to help ensure minority car buyers aren’t charged higher interest rates.

Republicans said that rescinding the guidance is necessary because it amounted to a backdoor attempt to regulate auto dealers. Congress expressly prohibited such regulation when establishing the consumer protection agency through passage of the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010. A Senate vote is expected Wednesday.

The legislative battle extends beyond the terms of car loans, however. Opponents warn the GOP’s fight against government regulations is entering a new phase and the Senate vote could be the first of many to nullify scores of agency bulletins and guidance letters issued over the years. Such guidance conveys to the public how regulators interpret existing law and what steps industries should take to comply.

The GOP is using what had been a rarely successful legislative tool to overturn regulations that were often years in the making. The Congressional Review Act gave Congress the ability to overturn recently issued federal rules with a simple majority of both chambers of Congress and approval of the president. Before President Donald Trump came into office, Congress had overturned only one federal rule over two decades using the tools available through the Congressional Review Act. Last year, it overturned 15 federal rules.

The GOP is expanding its use of the 1996 law to take on guidance that Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued regarding certain car loans. The Consumer Federation of America called the GOP’s effort a “dangerous precedent” that will lead to uncertainty over whether agency interpretations of a law will be invalidated years after the fact.

But Republicans framed the issue as Congress coming to the rescue of businesses.

“Republicans are chopping away at the tangled mess of regulations the last administration left behind,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Our whole economy is getting a tune-up. And now it’s time for the front end of the auto industry to come along for the ride.”