Financial Services Reform: A Case Study in Unorthodox Lawmaking

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Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Claire Haeg, Political Science


The 2007 economic crisis and the subsequent Wall Street bailouts forced Congress to consider major financial reform including regulation of predatory and subprime lending practices, increased oversight of major banks, and a significant change in the role of the Federal Reserve Bank. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 was one of the landmark bills of the 111th Congress since it involved major restructuring of the financial industry; indeed, it was the most sweeping financial policy reform since the Great Depression. Because of its significance and consequent length (the final bill was almost 1,000 pages long), the Dodd-Frank bill was debated under special rules and required complex compromises, making its final passage remarkable. This legislative process certainly bore no resemblance to the "Schoolhouse Rock" version of bill passage that most Americans are taught in high school civics class. The role of individual party leaders and committee members, as well as the impact of particular institutional structures and norms, was evident throughout the progress and passage of the bill. How did the actions of leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives and the structure of the institution affect the Dodd-Frank bill's form and successful passage? This paper examines Barbara Sinclair's understanding of "unorthodox lawmaking" on the Dodd-Frank bill. Utilizing qualitative methodology, including participant observation and historical analysis of the passage of the bill through Congress, this research is a case study that applies Sinclair's model and method to investigate unorthodox lawmaking in the 111th Congress.