If Rep. Maxine Waters becomes chair of the House Financial Services Committee she may not be able to undo Republicans’ deregulation efforts, but she could still hurt the nation’s economic growth, the committee’s current chair, Rep. Jeb Hensarling told CNBC on Wednesday.
He said there is a “north of 99 percent chance” that the Democrat from California will ascend to the position. Waters, a foe of Wall Street and harsh critic of President Donald Trump, has been the top Democrat on the banking panel since 2013.
“I don’t believe that she will be successful in rolling back what the president and this current Congress has done,” Hensarling, R-Texas, said on “Power Lunch.”
However, “she and others can slow down the pace of deregulation and thus harm economic growth in that way.”
Last May, Congress passed the biggest rollback of financial regulations since the financial crisis. Among other things, the legislation eased restrictions on all but the largest banks.
Waters has called for increased regulation of the largest U.S. banks. In July, she pledged tougher fines for financial institutions that take advantage of customers.
“The question is, will the House Financial Services Committee continue to be a beehive of legislative activity … or will the committee basically be turned into a Spanish Inquisition or the Star Chamber to harass the administration, to intimidate the administration?” said Hensarling, who did not seek re-election this year.
He said Waters may wind up using her subpoena power much more often than he ever did. That could end up being a challenge for the heads of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the FDIC, or Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., he noted.
“It’s going to be a test of what is their backbone made of because I assure you they will spend most of the day doing nothing but answering subpoenas for documents and appearances,” Hensarling said. “They will be sauteed, fried and grilled. There’s no doubt about that.”
But while Trump has called Waters “crazy” and an “extraordinarily low IQ person,” Hensarling said there is actually “a tale of two Maxines.”
On the one hand she is “capable of being a serious legislator, of negotiating and being a leader,” he said. However, Waters has also led the charge for impeaching Trump and has made incendiary comments, he added.
Hensarling also believes that many of the Democratic members of the committee want to legislate, he just doesn’t know if Waters will “let them do that.”
“The American people know the difference between legitimate oversight and political harassment and intimidation, and they will be watching closely,” he said.
A spokesperson for Waters did not immediately respond to a request for comment.