Pelosi: Passing a Wall Street Transport Tax Would Require Overseas Buy-in

Any proposal to fund new U.S. infrastructure investment by taxing financial transactions -- such as Rep. Pete DeFazio's (D-OR) bill taxing Wall Street oil speculators -- would require international participation to prevent the trades in question from migrating overseas, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said today.

nancy_pelosi.jpgHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Photo: MoniqueMonicat)

As House Democrats weigh their options for a new job-creation plan, slated for a vote before year's end, infrastructure spending is attracting new support from party leaders. But the question of how much to spend, and whether a new six-year transportation measure could be presented as a jobs bill, is tied up in ongoing uncertainty over where the necessary funding would come from.

DeFazio's recommendation to impose a small per-trade tax on the Wall Street oil futures market has picked up endorsements from progressive economists and writers as well as 29 of his fellow Democrats. Pelosi, however, was cautious in addressing its prospects today during her weekly press briefing.

"One of the concerns that some of us have about it," the Speaker said, "is what it [might do] to us in terms of transactions going offshore."

Emphasizing that the idea "is just something that is on the table," Pelosi added that passing a tax proposal such as DeFazio's would require consultation with and buy-in from other nations: "It would have to be an international rule, not just a U.S. rule."

Barney Frank (D-MA), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is among those who have expressed concerns that a Wall Street transaction tax, unless properly structured, would drive financial activity onto foreign commodity exchanges, thus generating lower-than-expected revenues.

Imposing a transaction tax "country by country ... would be a problem," Frank told the Wall Street Journal last month.

Pelosi's response today does not signal a decline in House-side momentum for DeFazio's proposal; she noted that financial regulators in the United Kingdom and elsewhere have spoken favorably of transaction taxes (also known as "Tobin" taxes).

But even if House Democrats ultimately embrace the idea as a revenue-raiser for their jobs bill, the proposed tax is guaranteed to face an uphill battle in the Senate -- where Wall Street has no shortage of powerful allies.