By Quinn Bowman and Linda J. Scott
The nation’s retailer scored a victory over the banks on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
The Senate defeated a measure that would have delayed implementation of a cut in the fees banks are allowed to charge retailers for each debit card transaction. Banks that issue debit cards stand to lose billions in fee revenue after the Federal Reserve issues its new rules on July 21 — rules that were mandated by last year’s Dodd-Frank financial reform bill.
The 54-45 vote on an amendment sponsored by Sen. John Tester, D-Mont., and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., needed 60 votes to pass and came down to the wire, with proponents and opponents arguing on the floor right up until the vote was held.
The Tester-Corker amendment would have delayed the rules and mandated that the Fed spend six month studying how the swipe fee changes would affect consumers and financial institutions, among other issues. The Fed would then have six more months to rewrite the rules, potentially delaying implementation by a year. According to the National Retail Federation, which opposed the amendment, debit card fees total $20 billion a year.
One senator said they were lobbied hard by both retailers and banks on the issue.
“I’m still standing,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who voted for the amendment. “Everybody’s gotten worked over on both sides,” he said, adding the retailer vs. bank fight was between two forces that are usually on the same side of the issues. Sen. Corker said he wasn’t sure of the outcome until 30 minutes before the vote.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., was the main opponent of the Tester-Corker amendment, and was the author of the measure that mandated the Fed ruling on swipe fees. In several floor speeches Wednesday he made impassioned pleas for a “no” vote on the measure.
By Rebecca Jacobson
Those with summer birthdays will find an important piece of mail missing from their mailboxes. On March 31, the Social Security Administration abruptly decided to stop sending its yearly earnings statements.
Apart from a post on its website, and Commissioner Michael Astrue’s testimony before the Senate on March 9, the organization made no other announcement that it would be discontinuing the statements.
Kia Price, public relations office for the SSA, said the decision was made due to budget concerns. The SSA will save $30 million this year by discontinuing the statements, and estimates it will save $60 million in fiscal year 2012.
— David Brooks on a possible government shutdown. MORE