WASHINGTON, DC–At a press conference Monday, members of Congress lambasted the British House Of Commons for "blatantly ripping off" Senate bill S.576.
"It is impossible to deny the similarities between Parliament's Regulation Of Depository Institutions Act and our own S.576, the Financial Regulatory Reform Bill," said Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX), sponsor of the U.S. bill. "For example, Section 102 of our bill repeals the limitation on the authority of a bank to permit the owner of any deposit or account to make withdrawals by negotiable or transferable instruments for transfers to third parties. Lines 404-410 in the British bill are almost identical, right down to the words 'transferable instruments.' That's my phrase."
Added Gramm: "Everyone on the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee worked really hard on that bill, and it makes me really mad that somebody would steal it and claim it as their own."
Gramm said he has tried to give Nigel Beard, the Labor Party MP who claims authorship of the U.K. bill, the benefit of the doubt, but it has been difficult.
"We have committee logs showing that we'd been working on the ideas central to this bill for months," Gramm said. "Then, when we finally go public with S.576 and put it on the floor for debate, this Nigel Beard guy just happens to have the exact same idea? Come on."
According to Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Parliament has stolen ideas for bills in the past, but U.S. legislators have never taken issue until now. This time, Dodd said, they spoke out because S.576 was "special."
"S.576 was originally written by the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee as a way to provide for improved monetary policy and regulatory reform in financial institution management and activities," Dodd said. "But as we worked on it, it grew into something much bigger and more meaningful: a way to streamline financial regulatory agency actions and provide for improved credit disclosure."
Thus far, members of the Commons' Finance And Services Committee are denying the charges.
"Whenever you have two bicameral legislative bodies, each producing hundreds of bills a year, there's bound to be some creative overlap," MP Lewis Moonie said. "And while we greatly respect what the U.S. Congress has done in the area of expediting procedures regarding mergers with subsidiaries or non-bank affiliates, we would never, ever steal from them. I swear to God, this is just a big coincidence."
"Surely America's lawmakers would recognize that the concept of regulating financial institutions is as old as the hills," Conservative MP David Heathcoat-Amory said. "They were doing it in ancient Rome, so it's not exactly like the U.S. came up with the idea first. Although, knowing those arrogant Yanks, I'm sure they think they did."
Other Members of Parliament assert that if anyone is guilty of plagiarism, it is the U.S.
"In the late '60s, American legislators were constantly lifting political concepts wholesale from such Eastern nations as China and India," said Colin Breed, Liberal Democrat MP for South East Cornwall. "When they did it back then, it was an homage, but when we do it, it's stealing."
"Americans are so closed-minded and self-impressed," Breed added. "They'll go on and on about how utterly amazing the Declaration Of Independence is, but point out that it's just a derivative rehashing of our Magna Carta, and they'll say, 'What's that?'"
Despite such denial and defiance on the part of the British, the U.S. senators refuse to back down.
"We're not giving up," said Gramm, who is demanding that the Commons table the bill indefinitely or face legal action. "I still remember that day when we finally placed that bill on the Senate Legislative Calendar. [Sen.] Rick [Santorum (R-PA)], [Sen.] Jim [Bunning (R-KY)], and I had pulled an all-nighter to get it just right, and we were just so unbelievably excited to hand it in. I don't want those memories sullied by a bunch of Brits who are too lazy to make up their own laws."