Reducing federal financial regulations is the top priority for the Senate Banking Committee, its leader said on Wednesday.
Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, chairman of the panel, said that excessive regulation holds back the economy.
"It's becoming as big an issue as the tax code and the national debt in term of big-ticket issues we need to face and deal with in America," Mr. Crapo said at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's annual conference in Washington. "Our goals should be to promote smart, efficient, better regulation, not just more regulation."
He said the Treasury Department's review of financial rules, a directive from President Donald Trump, gives the issue momentum.
"We will have a strong grounding from which to build a commonsense financial regulation reform process in America," Mr. Crapo said. "My goal this Congress is to work in a bipartisan manner with members of the Senate Banking Committee, the administration, with (House Financial Services Committee) Chairman (Jeb) Hensarling (R-Texas) and with the regulators to strike a smart balance with thoughtful regulation that promotes economic growth."
Mr. Crapo's insistence on generating support from both sides of the aisle could cause problems in the Senate for Mr. Hensarling's bill that would overhaul the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. That measure was recently approved on a party-line vote in committee and could reach the House floor next week. It contains a provision that would kill the Labor Department's fiduciary rule.
Mr. Crapo said his panel is seeking "bipartisan support for legislation." An example is a bill it approved earlier this spring that would ease restrictions on brokers' dissemination of research on exchange-traded funds.
At that hearing, Democrats on the committee advocated legislation that would require FINRA to establish a fund to pay arbitration awards to investors who are stiffed by losing brokerages that declare bankruptcy. The FINRA board last week advanced a measure that addresses unpaid arbitration claims but doesn't set up an insurance fund.
FINRA reform is not yet rising on the Senate Banking Committee agenda.
"Yes, there's been some discussion, but it's always a general process, not in detail," Mr. Crapo told reporters after his speech.
Mr. Crapo, whose former aide Gregory J. Dean Jr. is now FINRA senior vice president for government affairs, praised FINRA's recently launched self-assessment initiative, FINRA 360.
"More folks see that FINRA is listening to its members and to the public and, I might add, to members of Congress," Mr. Crapo said. "FINRA 360 will create a framework for the organization to convert feedback and input into action — action that will result in continued progress."