Pence breaks tie to scrap bank regulation bill

Senate Republicans last night had to fall back on a tie-breaking vote from vice president Mike Pence to scrap a landmark financial regulation that restricts banks and credit card companies from imposing mandatory arbitration on their customers as a dispute resolution measure.

The vote comes as a blow to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its controversial director, Richard Cordray, whose aggressive regulation has irked Republican lawmakers. They have urged president Donald Trump to fire Cordray.

"It's really a rogue agency," Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said on the Senate floor.

The lawmakers were barely able to pass the resolution to scrap the so-called arbitration rule after months of uncertainty about the number of Republican senators who would support the effort.

The measure had been opposed by consumer and veterans groups. Republican senators Lindsey Graham and John Kennedy broke with their party to vote against the repeal.

The issue is about the requirements mostly set out in fine print in agreements that consumers sign while applying for credit cards of bank accounts.

These agreements typically require consumers to settle any disputes they have with the company through arbitration, in which the ruling is delivered by a third party, rather than a court.

Tensions ran high until the end and just after 10 pm, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), seen as a potential swing vote, was the last senator to vote in favour of the rule, setting up the tie-breaker by Pence.

"The vice president only shows up in this body when the rich and the powerful need him," senator Sherrod Brown (Democrat-Ohio) said.

The regulation has been challenged in court by business groups including the US Chamber of Commerce, the American Bankers Association and the Financial Services Roundtable.

Democrats pointed to the fake account scandal at Wells Fargo, the nation's third-largest bank, and the massive consumer data breach at Equifax to boost their case for the rule.

According to commentators, the vote hands Wall Street and other big financial institutions their biggest victory since president Trump's election.