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US small business community pushes Congress on bank lending relief: letter

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The U.S. small business community on Tuesday wrote to lawmakers urging them to step up efforts to roll back regulation introduced in the wake of the 2007-09 financial crisis that they say has stymied lending, dampening economic growth and job creation.

The letter, sent to all U.S. Congressmen by more than 100 state and local chambers of commerce and seen by Reuters, highlights frustration among Main Street businesses which have yet to benefit from President Donald Trump’s pledge to ease access to credit by slashing financial rules.

Extra bank capital and liquidity requirements introduced by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law have slowed the flow of credit and seen many services and products for small businesses eliminated, the chambers wrote, citing Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation data.

“We believe Congress should develop common-sense reforms for community, mid-size and regional banks, which would help empower Main Street businesses. We urge you to make such legislation a priority,” the chambers wrote.

The letter is likely to increase pressure on Democrats in the Senate to support a bipartisan bill unveiled by the Republican-led Senate Banking Committee on Monday that would offer some relief to community and regional banks by reducing the threshold at which they are considered systemically risky.

That bill, which marks the first concrete congressional step toward rolling back Dodd-Frank, has nine Democratic co-sponsors, but Republicans will need to win over a handful of extra Democratic votes to be certain of its passage.

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Talks on the bill have dragged on for months, with Democratic lawmakers wary of appearing to offer handouts to big Wall Street banks. But they are growing more sympathetic to the idea of relaxing rules for small and regional lenders in order to make life easier for small businesses and entrepreneurs – especially with mid-term elections in 2018 looming, lobbyists said.

David Hirschmann, president and CEO, Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which coordinated the letter, said there was a growing “crescendo” among Democratic lawmakers on the regulatory relief issue.

“A year ago with a Democrat president in the White House, you could not get nine Democrats to support even common-sense reforms like this. So what’s changed? Is it because they want to help Trump? No. It’s because they’re hearing about this from home. That’s what’s causing these Democrats to come forward and to say, ‘We need to fix this’,” he said.

“There is a real understanding that if we don’t enable the banks, we are not going to have the small business lending we need. This is not a Wall Street issue; it’s a Main Street issue,” he added.

(Reporting by Michelle Price, editing by G Crosse and Lisa Shumaker)

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‘This American dream’: Pain overwhelms family of drowned migrants

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"They had this American dream," sobbed Rosa Ramirez after images of her drowned son and granddaughter, discovered face-down on the banks of the Rio Grande between Mexico and the United States, shocked the world on Wednesday.

The poignant pictures of Oscar Alberto Martinez and his toddler daughter Valeria -- not yet two years old -- has sparked outrage back home in El Salvador, where around 200 migrants like them leave for the United States daily, preparing to take similar risks.

"The pain has been immense. I still can't believe that my boy and my little granddaughter are dead, they only wanted to get to the United States.... they had this American dream -- to achieve a better life," Oscar's mother told AFP.

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Venezuela government says thwarted attempted ‘coup’

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Venezuela's socialist government said Wednesday it had derailed an attempted coup, claiming the United States, Colombia and Chile colluded in a military plot to assassinate President Nicolas Maduro and install a general and former defense minister in his place.

Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said the plan involved active and retired army officers and was to have been executed between Sunday and Monday this past weekend.

"We were in all the meetings to plan the coup d'Etat. We were in all the conferences," Rodriguez said, suggesting that government informers had infiltrated the alleged plotters during planning meetings.

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Democrats believe Mueller testimony could be tipping point for impeachment: CNN

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On Wednesday, CNN congressional correspondent Manu Raju reported that some House Democrats view special counsel Robert Mueller's upcoming public testimony to the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees in July as a potential tipping point that could sway both Democratic leaders and the American people in favor of opening an impeachment probe.

"Democrats who support opening up an impeachment inquiry believe this could bolster the calls to open up formal proceedings, perhaps shift public opinion, perhaps encourage the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to move off of her opposition to opening up an impeachment probe because of what Bob Mueller will say," said Raju.

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