By Pete Schroeder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The chief executives of JPMorgan, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and other major U.S. banks are facing a grilling by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers on Wednesday on the economy, consumer protections and the lenders’ stance on fossil fuel lending and firearms, among other issues.

In testimony before the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, the CEOs touted their financial strength, role in distributing billions of dollars in COVID-19 pandemic-related aid and efforts both to boost lending in poorer communities and diversity within their ranks.

The CEOs due to testify include the heads of the four largest U.S. banks: JPMorgan Chase & Co’s Jamie Dimon, Wells Fargo’s Charles Scharf, Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan and Citigroup’s Jane Fraser. They are set to be joined by US Bancorp CEO Andy Cecere, PNC Financial CEO William Demchak and Truist’s Bill Rogers, who run the country’s largest regional lenders.

While such hearings rarely result in legislative action, they are still risky for CEOs, who are forced to defend their banks on a number of fronts at a time when lawmakers are looking to boost their profiles ahead of November elections in which control of Congress is at stake.

Democrats pressed bank executives on fees, the closure of bank branches in poorer areas and the implications of several larger mergers in recent years.

“Over the past several years, we’ve seen the system of banking in this country dramatically shift. Our nation’s largest banks have gotten even bigger,” said Representative Maxine Waters, who chairs the panel. “It’s past time we get to the bottom of who these mergers actually benefit.”

Executives also are facing heightened criticism from Republicans, who have grown frustrated with what they see as Wall Street’s increasingly liberal leanings on environment and social issues. Some large banks have adopted policies that some Republicans say amount to boycotts of certain industries such as fossil fuels and firearms. Banks dispute that characterization.

Rep. Patrick McHenry, the top panel Republican, kicked off the hearing by chastising banks for considering such stances.

“We’re going to hear Democrats encourage banks to make lending decisions based off ‘woke’ politics rather than credit worthiness,” he said.

(Reporting by Pete Schroeder; editing by Michelle Price and Will Dunham)