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Photo: Axios screenshot

Equal access to banking and financial services should be protected under the Civil Rights Act, Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said on Thursday in an Axios virtual event.

Why it matters: People of color, particularly Black people, risk being racially profiled in visits to banks, yet the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not identify financial institutions as businesses that must not treat black customers differently. "That loophole makes it hard for victims of racial profiling to win in court," a New York Times investigation found.

The big picture: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), along with Smith and other Democratic senators, in October introduced a bill that looks to outlaw discrimination by banks and other financial institutions, ensuring that this type of discrimination is covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

  • The bill needs to be reintroduced to the new Congress in order to be considered.

What she's saying: Smith addressed a case in which a black woman tried to cash a check from her bank, but was denied from doing so, saying, "it's hard not to see that as anything but racial profiling — I'm holding her back, keeping her from exercising the same kind of banking that we white people honestly take for granted."

  • "What the bill that Sherrod Brown has that I'm co-leading with him would do is it would bring under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banking and financial services, prohibiting discrimination in banking and financial services."

Worth noting: Smith also addressed wealth inequality and Senate Democrats' effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2025.

  • "[R]aising the minimum wage to $15 an hour —raises over time so it gets to $15 an hour by 2025 — is one of the biggest things that we can do to address the wage inequality and savings potential for people of color in this country," Smith said.

Go deeper: Watch the full Axios event.

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Jan 29, 2021 - Economy & Business

Making sense of the GameStop circus

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It's probably fair to say that Thursday was one of the crazier days in the history of financial news.

What happened: Robinhood, which has become synonymous with retail trading and the parabolic rise of stocks like GameStop and Tesla, shut down the ability of its users to buy (but not to sell) some of the platform's most popular names.

Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin testifies before a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 29 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Getty Images

The state of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration on Thursday in an attempt to block the enforcement of its vaccine mandate for federal employees.

Why it matters: The move comes one day after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin denied Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt's (R) request to exempt the state's National Guard from the mandate.

Congress passes stopgap funding bill to avert shutdown

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Senate voted 69-28 to pass legislation Thursday night to fund the government until February 18.

Why it matters: The move staves off a government shutdown but lawmakers still have a busy month ahead: Congress needs to work out a deal to raise the debt ceiling in a few weeks and Democrats are trying to pass their behemoth social spending bill.