Saturday, March 27, 2010

Democrats press to overhaul Wall Street

Democrats press to overhaul Wall Street

by Marcy Gordon and Jim Kuhnhenn Associated Press Mar. 25, 2010 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration went on the attack Wednesday against the country's biggest business lobby over its resistance to financial rules as Democrats and the White House voiced new optimism that sweeping Wall Street regulations could be completed within months.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that a reworking of the financial system is sorely needed and that an attempted obstruction by the chamber is misguided.

"It is so puzzling that despite the urgent and undeniable need for reform, the Chamber of Commerce has launched a $3 million advertising campaign against it," Wolin told a business audience as it at lunch beneath chandeliers at the organization's ornate headquarters a block from the White House.

Wolin's remarks - and a White House meeting between President Barack Obama and leading administration and congressional authors of the regulatory overhaul - signaled a new determination to make reining in Wall Street the next presidential priority.

The legislation working its way through Congress, prompted by the Wall Street meltdown of 2008, would be the most sweeping change in financial regulations since the New Deal.

It would give the government unprecedented powers to split up companies considered a threat to the economy, put together a council of regulators to watch for risks in the financial system and create an independent consumer watchdog.

Republican unity, meanwhile, was showing signs of strain. GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who tried and failed to negotiate an agreement with Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, questioned the Republican decision this week to let the bill go to the Senate floor without a compromise.

"I just think that it is a strategic mistake," Corker said in an interview Wednesday.

"This is a very different issue than health care. Most everyone in the House and Senate want to deal with it."

On Monday, the Banking Committee's top Republican, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, withdrew Republican amendments to the bill and let the committee approve a Dodd-written bill by a party-line 13-10 vote.

At the time, Shelby said that he would continue to negotiate with Dodd, D-Conn.

But Corker said he feared Republicans no longer had leverage to adjust the bill more to their liking.

"The president expects that we will finish financial reform in the next couple of months," said Robert Gibbs, a White House spokesman.

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