Financial Reform Bill Delayed in Senate

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. House of Representatives passed a sweeping financial regulatory reform bill Wednesday by a 237 to 192 vote, but the bill will not be passed in the Senate until lawmakers return from the Independence Day recess, in mid-July.

     “Today’s House vote in favor of Wall Street reform puts us on the cusp of passing a law that will give consumers greater protection and safeguard our economy against future financial crises,” President Obama said in a statement Wednesday. Obama promised that the bill will end taxpayer bailouts of big banks.
     Three House Republicans voted in favor of the financial overhaul legislation, Anh Joseph Cao of Louisiana, Michael Castle of Delaware, and Walter Jones of North Carolina. Nineteen Democrats voted against it.
      A joint House and Senate committee finished negotiating on the final version of the bill last Friday. The initial version was passed by the House in December and by the Senate in May.
     Throughout negotiations, Democrats accused Republicans of siding with big banks, and Republicans said the bill excessively expands the size of government and institutionalizes taxpayer bailouts.
     The more than 2,300-page bill introduces the largest number of financial reforms since the Great Depression. The bill creates a consumer protection bureau within the Federal Reserve that will make and enforce new rules for the finance industry, including cracking down on derivatives, financial instruments that derive their value from underlying investments. Trading in the derivatives market helped contribute to the 2008 financial meltdown.
     The bill also allows the government to step in and wind down big financial firms by seizing control of assets if they pose a threat to the economy. In addition, it aims to give consumers more information on financial transactions.
     “When the Senate soon acts on this historic legislation and the president signs it into law, the country will enter an era of transparency for our financial markets, tough oversight of Wall Street, and strong consumer protections on Main Street,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Wednesday following the bill’s passage.
     Senate majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he wanted to get the legislation passed in the Senate before it adjourned for the July 4 recess, and Obama said he hoped to have the bill on his desk by Independence Day, but the bill has been delayed in the Senate.
     Reid is still working to win over Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who opposed a $19 billion fee on big banks that was tacked onto the bill last Friday to offset the cost of the legislation. On Tuesday, the joint conference committee reconvened to remove the fee provision.
     “I appreciate the conference committee revisiting the Wall Street reform bill and removing the $19 billion bank tax,” Brown said in a statement Wednesday, still not promising his vote. Brown said he will continue to review the bill over the July 4 recess.
     Senate Democrats are also looking to Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine to defeat a Republican filibuster. Both lawmakers voted in favor of the bill when it passed in the Senate last month, along with Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. On Wednesday, Collins said she will support the bill in a final vote.
     The bill’s passage was also delayed by the death of Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., the longest-serving senator in U.S. history, who died June 28 at the age of 92. His replacement is expected to be in place by July 12, when the Senate reconvenes after the break.
     The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation the week of July 12.

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