WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 2017 - House Republicans pushed through legislation to curb Dodd-Frank regulations on the futures industry and freeze spending at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. 

The Commodity End-User Relief Act, which passed the House 239-182, with the support of just seven Democrats, would reauthorize funding for the CFTC through 2021. 

The measure probably has little future beyond the House because of strong opposition from Democrats, but the measure is one of series of bills that House Republicans are using to showcase their promises to reduce regulations across the economy.

The debate comes as CFTC Chairman Timothy Massad, an appointee of President Obama, is preparing to resign Jan. 20 when Obama leaves office. Massad will eventually be replaced by a Republican.

Similar bills passed the House in 2014 and 2015 - without the spending cap - and still died in the Senate amid stiff resistance from Democrats, including the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. She announced her opposition to the latest bill shortly after it passed the House. 

Many market participants are “struggling to comply with the burdensome rules” that the commission has implemented under the Dodd-Frank law, which was enacted in wake of the 2008 market meltdown, said House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway. 

Among other things, the legislation would require the agency to “conduct more thorough and robust cost-benefit analyses” before implementing future regulations, he said. 

The bill also would freeze CFTC’s budget at its current level, $250 million, through fiscal 2021. Obama repeatedly sought increases in CFTC’s budget that Republicans blocked. Obama requested $330 million for the agency in fiscal 2017. 

The legislation has produced a rare partisan division on the Agriculture Committee. The ranking Democrat, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, said Congress should pass a simple reauthorization bill, and he also complained that the latest version of the legislation wasn’t considered in committee.

He said the CFTC had already addressed many of the concerns that had been raised in the rule making process. “Every single witness before the Agriculture Committee last Congress told us that the agency needs more resources to do its work,” Peterson said. 

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“Maybe that’s the whole point – this bill will lead to the agency doing nothing.That would be a mistake. We tried that once and found ourselves with a real mess."

The House approved, 236-191, a Conaway amendment that says the agency shouldn’t impose position limits until it issues a finding that they are needed to curb excessive speculation. The agency believes that the Dodd-Frank law requires the CFTC to issue a rule even without the finding. 

The CFTC agreed unanimously last month to propose a reworked position limits rule that was first released in 2013.

“This past fall my colleagues and I all ran for re-election promising to reduce government regulation and eliminate rules that needlessly burden the economy,” Conaway said. “As we consider the ongoing work, we should look no further than the position limit rulemaking to begin that task.”

He said position limits “are an unmistakable burden on market participants.”

Stabenow, in a statement, said the bill “irresponsibly handcuffs” the CFTC, and she also criticized the spending cap. 

“Providing the CFTC with urgently needed resources is a critical first step to ensure fair, transparent, and competitive derivatives markets for all market participants,” she said.