Senate passes Wall St Reform bill in cliffhanger 60-39 vote

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, July 15 – Comprehensive financial industry reform is about to become the law of the land. Thursday afternoon, first the Senate rejected a final procedural attempt to delay passage of the financial reform bill in a 60-39 vote, then immediately voted on the financial reform bill itself, approving it in a 60-39 vote. That precisely met the 60 vote minimum needed to avoid a Republican filibuster.

Senate Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd (D-CT) pointed out following the final vote that the 60 vote margin was only possible thanks to three Republicans breaking with their party. In a celebratory press conference, Dodd specifically thanked Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Scott Brown (R-MA) for their courage and said that “This bill would not have happened without them. They stood up, they added to the bill, they contributed all through the process. It wasn't just a last-minute trade-off for a vote. They added value to this legislation.”


Senate Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd (D-CT) & Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) at their
press conference following the Senate's 60-39 vote to pass the Wall Street Reform bill. Photo: Agri-Pulse.
There could have been one more vote for the bill except for the fact that West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin has not acted yet to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV).

Dodd and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) noted that the needed 60 votes remained in doubt up until the actual vote took place. They did not mention that Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) voted against the bill, based on his view that even stronger reform is needed. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) had also withheld her support earlier, calling for stronger measures. But she voted in favor of the bill in Thursday's final votes.

Since the House has already passed the Wall Street Reform bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) confirmed that President Obama plans to sign the 2,300 page financial reform legislation into law next week. Still, as Dodd commented, “even before the ink has dried,” House Minority Leader John Boehner called for repealing the new law. After his earlier remarks which appeared to equate the financial crisis with an ant, Boehner charged Thursday that “The financial reform bill is ill-conceived. I think it is going to make credit harder for the American people to get.”

Acknowledging that the bill isn't perfect, Dodd conceded that Republicans are correct in their calls for dealing with troubled mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But he said that those institutions present complex problems which need to be handled in separate legislation rather than used as an excuse to delay passage of the Wall Street reform bill.

Reid said financial reform was needed because “Wall Street rigged the game.” He said that without the bill passed Thursday, “we would be inviting this disaster to happen again.” To prevent a repeat of 2008's financial meltdown and promising and end to “too-big-to-fail” bailouts,” Reid said “We are giving consumers and taxpayers the strongest protections they've ever had, we're giving Wall Street the strongest oversight it's never had.”

Dodd added that the bill ends “too-big-to-fail” so that “never again, ever again should we have to go through what we did in the fall of 2008 to ask the American taxpayer to write a check of $700 billion to bail out a handful of financial institutions that frankly in many cases helped create the financial mess we were in, to see to it that we would end up with an early warning system so that we can avoid the kind of spreading of these problems that we've seen happen over the last several years.”

Dodd dismissed Republican complaints that the bill leaves too much up to the regulatory agencies charged with writing implementing regulations. He said that there certainly would have been complaints if Congress had written in every detail itself rather than having regulatory agency experts use their expertise. He pointed out that final regulations will be subject to public comment periods and to congressional oversight hearings.

Dodd also stressed the importance of creating the bill's new Consumer Financial Protection Board, saying “I can't believe the opposition to this.” The new agency is designed to be a regulatory body with the sole task of protecting consumers from things like misleading mortgage offers.

For Agri-Pulse coverage of the combative debate leading up to the final financial reform vote, go to:

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