Why This Democrat Thinks His Colleagues Are 'Cockroaches'

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) compared his Capitol Hill colleagues to "reverse cockroaches" on Thursday for stripping a major bipartisan budget deal of language critical of "too big to fail" banks.

WATCH DeFazio's comments in the video above.

DeFazio's ire was provoked by the removal of a Senate budget amendment, sponsored by Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), that passed in March by a vote of 99 to 0. The amendment, which has no legally binding policy implications, expressed the "sense of the Senate" that big banks benefit from an effective government subsidy based on the perception that they'll be saved by taxpayers in a crisis.

The amendment was subsequently attached to budget legislation, but when House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) cut a deal earlier this month, they dropped the Brown-Vitter language entirely.

"It's sorta like reverse cockroaches: When you turn on the light, the cockroaches scatter, and in this case, when you turn off the lights, the banks win," DeFazio told HuffPost Live. "We're being deprived of an opportunity to say, 'Nobody definitely should be too big too fail.'"

Some studies have concluded that because some banks are perceived as "too big to fail," they can borrow money at lower rates than their smaller competitors. Many economists believe that perception also encourages such banks to take risks, in the belief that, should their bets go bad, the government will come to rescue.

"It's pathetic," DeFazio told HuffPost Live. "Look, the banks have been treated as though they're extraterritorial entities and not subject to our laws."

DeFazio, one of the most progressive House Democrats, emphasized his support for the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, but said that the bill had not gone far enough to rein in too-big-to-fail banks.

"Dodd-Frank was only the minimal reform we needed. We needed stronger reform. We should've gone along the lines of Glass-Steagall. If they want to gamble, fine. You do that in an institution that doesn't have any federal guarantees."

Wall Street reform makes strange bedfellows on Capitol Hill. Vitter is a hardline conservative who spent much of 2013 badgering Democrats on Obamacare and pushing to cut food stamps.

DeFazio may be cutting his colleagues too much slack. In January 2013, Public Policy Polling conducted a survey that found Congress was viewed less favorably than cockroaches.



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