MSNBC: Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) took the gavel of the Committee on Financial Services Thursday, becoming the first African-American and first female chair of the committee, and one of the most powerful people in Washington.
HAYES: We are back here live outside the capitol where we are moments away from a vote to reopen the government, the first official action of the House Democratic majority. New Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she would introduce Republican legislation that already passed the Senate just a few weeks ago. The White House has said the president plans to veto the bill. Of course, he already said that he would be the one shutting the government down.
Now, before today, the House Committee on Financial Services has never been chaired by an African-American or chaired by a woman. That all changed today when Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California took the gavel this afternoon. She becomes one of the most powerful people in Washington, joining the other Democratic committee chairs.
And Congresswoman Maxine Waters joins me now.
WATERS: Thank you.
HAYES: You said you were up all night working last night.
HAYES: What were you working on?
WATERS: Basically getting prepared for the work that we have to do today and tomorrow perhaps and maybe over the weekend.
HAYES: You've got a lot on your plate on this committee.
HAYES: And I want to play something very -- something you said. There are a few news stories about people, some blind item quotes about how will the Chair Waters deal --
WATERS: Yes, yes.
HAYES: -- with investigating Trump or doing other things.
HAYES: This is what you had to say today. Take a listen.
WATERS: OK, all right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WATERS: Those who say I’m going to spend all my time trying to get subpoenas and trying to do investigation and I’m not going to do that. I’m just going to spend some of my time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: You cracked yourself up.
WATERS: That's right.
HAYES: So how are you thinking about the balance between those two imperatives in your --
WATERS: Well, first of all, we have to be clear that we have lots of responsibilities in this committee. And as you know, I’ve been focused on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That was the center piece of the Dodd/Frank reform. And Mulvaney who was sent over temporarily by the president to oversee it after the guy who headed it left to run for governor.
And he's tried to dismantle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And before we got the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the Dodd/Frank legislation, consumers had no real protection. Nobody was looking out for them. And so, this is extremely important.
I’m going to focus on that and we're going to try and undo the damage that Mulvaney has done. Fair housing, the GSEs, that is Fannie and Freddie. We have all of that work to do. So, we're going to do our work.
Now, don't forget. Inquiries into Deutsche Bank was part of the work we had already started to do. We had sent letters to Deutsche Bank trying to find out about two internal reviews that they had done. And what did they find out?
Of course, they did not answer us. We've been trying to find out about the money ties to Russia through Deutsche Bank. We know that Deutsche Bank lends this president -- have loaned him a lot of money. And we want to know whether or not some money laundering is going on.
So, we'll do a little of that. We’ll do some of that, continuing our work. But we won't be concentrated just on that.
HAYES: So, the Deutsche Bank inquiry -- Deutsche Bank has already paid these enormous settlements, right?
HAYES: With both domestic and international regulators --
WATERS: That’s right, that’s right.
HAYES: -- about money laundering.
WATERS: That’s right.
HAYES: So, you already had pre-existing inquiries. They just also happened to be the bank that became the lender of last resort to the president.
WATERS: That's right. No other bank will lend him money.
HAYES: And it’s Deutsche -- so do you want to talk to the head of Deutsche Bank? You want to call them before the committee. Are you going to investigate on what --
WATERS: I think we are going to follow up on the letters we have already sent and see if they have a change of mind, now that things have changed in the House.
HAYES: You're saying the letters you sent them as the ranking member?
WATERS: That's right. They did not respond to those. So, we've got to see if they're going to be a little bit more cooperative, and then we’ll see where we go from there.
HAYES: You talked about Mulvaney and CFPB. There's been two things that have happened in the area you oversee of financial services. One is a real kind of deregulatory push at the sort of executive level.
WATERS: That’s right.
HAYES: There's also been legislation passed that rolled back part of Dodd/Frank.
WATERS: That’s right.
HAYES: How perilous -- how dangerous do you think the last two years have been for the sort of health of the system?
WATERS: Well, the last two years have been very dangerous. I have been appalled and surprised at how blatant it has been. This administration is not at all concerned about the welfare of the average family, and the welfare of people who are struggling every day to make a living. They don't mind them getting ripped off in many ways.
Whether we're talking about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that oversees things like payday loans, are they involved in, you know, trying to -- that -- this administration is involved in many ways in trying to undo the work that we have done to try and protect the average family and homeowners.
HAYES: You entered Congress, I believe, in 1991, right?
HAYES: So that's been 28 years ago. What is it like today to see this incoming class and the variety of backgrounds they represent compared to what it was like when you walked in and took that oath 28 years ago?
WATERS: Well, it's very different. When I came to Congress, the Financial Services Committee was the old banking committee. And people were fleeing the bank because there was a bank scandal going on.
WATERS: So those of us who were pushed onto it were kind of punished.
HAYES: Oh, it was a bad assignment?
WATERS: Terrible assignment.
HAYES: Oh, because of savings and loans and things like that?
WATERS: The savings and loans that was going on.
HAYES: So, you got on there because it was (INAUDIBLE) with backwater?
WATERS: That’s right, that's right. That’s exactly right. But I paid my dues. I stayed on. I worked hard. I learned from great chairmen.
HAYES: You've been on 28 years the whole time?
WATERS: Yes, I have. Yes. Yes.
WATERS: And I learned an awful lot. I know an awful lot. And I’ve been the leader as the ranking member for the Democratic Caucus in helping to explain to them the issues that go through that committee and helping to guide my caucus in trying to make sure that we protect some of the work that we have done for the consumers.
HAYES: You know, the big banks hated the CFPB.
HAYES: They have hated it from day one.
WATERS: That’s right, that's right.
HAYES: They've been fighting it the whole time.
What is -- what is your analysis of how much control Wall Street has now? Ten years after the big crisis, after the crash, after Dodd/Frank, having this new group that came to town and let the reins off a little bit? Where do things stand?
WATERS: Well, let me just say this. And I’ve said it over and over again. The big banks of America have basically control of the Congress of the United States as far as their issues are concerned. Many of our members have failed to even try to rein them in because the way that they have concocted these issues, it makes it sound as if it's so complicated --
WATERS: -- that nobody else understands or knows what they're doing when they talk about derivatives and margins. And they talk about the bond market, et cetera, but it's not that complicated at all.
And so what I am saying to the big banks right now is stop it. Stop it. Don't come in here with all of these bills where you're trying to undo everything that we have done and you're sending a message to your investors that you're looking out for them. I want a moratorium on this.
HAYES: You're telling them that? Don't come here and lobby on doing stuff.
WATERS: That’s right, that's right.
HAYES: I imagine they give you money, right? They contribute to you.
WATERS: Not really. You know, I don't take money from the big banks.
HAYES: You don't?
WATERS: I have taken some contributions from small community banks, but I don't really take money from the big banks.
HAYES: A lot of people on that committee -- it's funny you said you were put there as a backwater, that committee has become enormous, further reasons it become enormous is a lot of freshmen get put on it because you could raise money because all of the interests start writing you checks, right?
WATERS: Yes, this has happened.
HAYES: It's part of the nature of that committee. From day one, you get put on Financial Services and you start getting checks.
WATERS: This certainly has happened and it's been talked about. And I think that not only are many of our new members not wanting to be involved in that kind of support from those who are looking for something in exchange. Some of our other members have resisted that slowly, but it has been the way that many members have been able to raise money, because they may be in difficult districts and they need the campaign contributions and they have just allowed themselves to receive those contributions from those banks.
HAYES: I want to ask you same question I just asked Chair Schiff. A lot of people look at the ways that the Republicans conducted themselves in the House. And they see a lot of sort of destruction of norms and precedent.
HAYES: But also some effectiveness in terms of getting the Budget Control Act in 2010 with this -- 2011 with this blatant threat about defaulting on the debt ceiling. How do you think about balancing the sort of new norms and maximalism as a way of getting things done that you want to get done and respect for not destroying things in your wake?
WATERS: It is not easy to do. Number one, we have a financial services community that's very central to our economy. We need the banks. We need them to operate and provide certain kind of services. But that does not mean that they could use their influence and their power to basically control the decisions of Congress. And we're going to have to work hard at it.
One of the good things about what is happening is some of our younger members are going to be very vocal. The newer members are going to be very vocal.
HAYES: You like that?
WATERS: Yes, I do. Yes I do. I like that.
They're going to raise questions. You're going to see a new kind of approach in the hearings that we have. They're going to come right out with it. They won't be ashamed. They won't be afraid. They really believe in what they're doing. I think that's good for the institution.
HAYES: Congresswoman now chair of the House Financial Services Committee, 28 years in your tenure, first African-American, first woman to chair that committee --
WATERS: Yes, yes.
HAYES: -- thank you very much on this day.
WATERS: You're so welcome and thank you.