Alabama Republican Spencer Bachus, the incoming chairman of the House banking committee, says the role of Congress and federal regulators is to "serve" financial institutions.
"In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks," Bachus told The Birmingham News in an interview.
The Republican leadership last week designated Bachus the next chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee, which is tasked with overseeing banks, financial markets, housing and consumer credit.
Democrats characterized the remark as a Freudian slip, nicknaming the Alabaman "Big Bank Bachus" and claiming the new Republican-controlled House will put the interests of financial institutions ahead of the American public.
"Congressman Spencer 'Big Bank' Bachus has given Americans a startlingly honest answer about the House Republican agenda – do whatever is good for the big banks and Wall Street special interests, rather than what’s good for hardworking Americans,” said Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Bachus later told the Birmingham News he merely meant Congress shouldn't micromanage banks.
The congressman from Alabama's 6th district has throughout his 18-year House career raised millions from financial interests, including over $1 million from commercial banks alone, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
He has received over $800,000 from the real estate industry, $700,000 from securities and investment firms, and $415,000 from credit companies -- all of which he will have extraordinary influence over as banking committee chair.
Bachus was an important negotiator for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) of 2008 -- often derided as the "bank bailout" -- which angered the public but also prevented a widespread collapse of the financial system. It passed with wide bipartisan support.
The outgoing chairman, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), played an instrumental role in developing sweeping financial regulatory reforms enacted by President Barack Obama in July.