Senate subcommittee gives SEC full funding request

But House Republicans have a different figure in mind

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

Jul 23, 2013 @ 12:39 pm (Updated 1:08 pm) EST

regulation, sec

The Securities and Exchange Commission would get its full budget request for fiscal year 2014 under a bill approved by a Senate panel today — providing the agency with the resources it says it needs to beef up investment adviser oversight.

The measure passed by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Financial Services and General Government would give the SEC a 33% budget increase — or $353 million — to a funding level of $1.674 billion. The bill will be considered by the full Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

But the version moving through the Senate, where Democrats are in the majority, veers sharply from that in the House, which is controlled by Republicans. Last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would increase SEC funding by only $50 million for the next fiscal year.

In an appearance before the Senate subcommittee in June, SEC Chairman Mary Jo White made the case for a significant budget increase for the agency by highlighting the need to better regulate investment advisers. She said the agency can examine annually only about 8% of the nearly 10,000 registered advisers, and about 40% have never been examined.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said the bill would fully fund the SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission because increasingly complex financial markets are putting people saving for retirement and other retail investors at risk.

“As reflected in this bill, I'm committed to working to ensure that these watchdogs have the necessary resources to do their jobs,” Mr. Udall said at a markup today.

Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., the ranking Republican on the subcommittee, opposed the bill, saying it is too costly. The overall bill would spend $44.3 billion on the agencies under its jurisdiction, a 4.2% increase from fiscal 2013 levels.

“The bill proposes dramatic increases at agencies that, in my judgment, need better management,” Mr. Johanns said. “For the SEC, Congress has tripled funding over the past 10 years, yet this bill proposes another 33% increase.”

The House and Senate must agree to funding levels for federal agencies by the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, or risk shutting down the government. When Congress has found itself on that brink recently, including last year, it has approved a so-called continuing resolution that has kept agencies funded at their current budget levels.