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Clinton defends financial regs for big banks, dodges trade

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton listens to small business owners, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, at the Bike Tech cycling shop in Cedar Falls, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton sharply criticized Republican efforts to revamp a 2010 financial regulation law as “cynical attempt to game the system for those at the top.” But she continued to avoid taking a position on an Asia-Pacific trade pact that has divided fellow Democrats.

On the second day of a campaign swing through Iowa, Clinton on Tuesday also opened herself to questions from reporters for the first time in more than three weeks.

Her refusal to do so had stirred Republican accusations that she was dodging tough issues, as well as worries among some Democrats that she risked looking entitled to the nomination by avoiding matters that other contenders tackle.

Clinton briefly addressed questions on her family’s charitable foundation and the enormous sums of money she and husband Bill Clinton have made through paid speeches. Clinton said Tuesday that while she and the former president are grateful for the opportunities they have had, “we’ve never forgotten where we came from.”

Financial disclosures released by the campaign last week showed that Clinton and her husband had made $25 million on speeches since January 2014.

She also reiterated that she had made a “mistake” in voting for the Iraq War in 2003, wading briefly into a debate that has consumed the Republican presidential field in recent days.

Clinton’s comments came at the end of an event with small business owners at a bicycle shop in Cedar Falls. She called for easing regulations on small community banks, but not for the types of large financial institutions that contributed to the 2008 economic crisis.

Clinton said that if elected president, she would scrub federal regulations that limit community banks from providing loans to small businesses. She said she would also offer incentives for state and local governments to do the same thing.

“You shouldn’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to get a loan,” said Clinton, the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

The Senate’s banking committee chairman, Republican Richard Shelby of Alabama, has introduced legislation to give banks with assets of more than $50 billion a chance to avoid tighter supervision. Some Democrats say regulatory relief should be limited to credit unions and smaller community banks.

Shelby’s legislation would be the most ambitious rewrite of rules governing the financial services sector since Democrats passed the Dodd-Frank law when controlling Congress in 2010.

Clinton’s opposition to Shelby’s legislation put her in line with many progressive Democrats, such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. That same wing of the party opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that President Barack Obama is pushing.

Clinton has frustrated some in her party by persistently sidestepping questions about the trade pact. She noted concerns have been raised about currency manipulation, as well as health and environmental protections, but said it’s too soon for her to declare her support or opposition.

“I want to judge the final agreement,” Clinton said. “I have been for trade agreements. I have been against trade agreements.”

Clinton has been casting herself as a champion for the middle class in her second presidential run. But she’s faced questions about whether she can relate to average Americans given her enormous personal wealth.

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Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

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