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Obama's next big thing: Financial reform

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Hot off the heels of the health care reform bill, President Obama and his team are now working to quickly push through finance reform.

The new legislation, considered the most significant change to financial rules since the Great Depression, would create an oversight board to monitor and eradicate hazards of a systemic nature, broaden the Federal Reserve’s control over the largest, “too big to fail” companies, establish an agency to protect financial consumers by regulating mortgages and credit cards and establish basic regulation of exotic instruments such as derivatives, which destabilized the financial markets and worsened the 2008 crisis.

But, just like with the recent health care bill, the issue remains–will there be bipartisan support? A recent Reuters article stated that: “Democrats will be hard-pressed to assemble the 60 votes likely to be needed to get a bill through the Senate, but analysts said odds still favored the approval of reform legislation this year.”

So far, the Democrats are taking a more aggressive posture toward Republicans following success of their health care bill: Cooperate on reform or have no say at all in its provisions. But will that type of attitude work?

At least on a tertiary level, this approach appears to be working, as two important Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Bob Corker of Tennessee, agreed with Democratic predictions that a reform bill will be passed this year. Lawmakers have apparently decided the best approach is to amend a bill after its passage as more than 400 amendments by various senators have been submitted for consideration.

Some 200 of the amendments are from Republican Sens. Richard Shelby of Alabama and Bob Corker of Tennessee. According to a Wall Street Journal report “Shelby has an amendment that would force the Securities and Exchange Commission to merge with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. He has other amendments that would require any new consumer-protection regulations to be more closely balanced with the potential impact on a bank’s safety and soundness.”

Ultimately, the public could play a larger role in the finance battle than with health care. Whereas the public was bitterly divided on health care, anger directed at large financial institutions cuts across party lines. The Reuters article states that “a Pew Research poll in February showed that while Republicans are less supportive than Democrats of tougher financial regulations, 67 percent of Republicans held an unfavorable view of major banks. That was almost as high as the 72 percent of Democrats who felt that way.”


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