Wall Street reform reaches home stretch in US Senate

Ambitious Wall Street reform, which has become a top priority for President Barack Obama, enters the home stretch in the US Senate this coming week, with a final vote on the proposal possible as early as Wednesday.

Obama used his weekly radio address Saturday to renew his push for the reform proposal, saying it would help secure the country's economic future.

"The reform bill being debated in the Senate will not solve every problem in our financial system - no bill could," Obama said.

"But what this strong bill will do is important, and I urge the Senate to pass it as soon as possible, so we can secure America's economic future in the 21st century."

Obama is promising the most sweeping regulatory reform drive since the 1930s Great Depression, and is seeking to build momentum for efforts by Democrats in Congress to overcome Republican opposition and pass a new Wall Street reform law.

Republican leaders have so far been united in opposition to the bill to impose tougher regulations on banks and finance firms and to frame a new consumer financial protection agency.

They say Obama's reforms would introduce the heavy hand of government deeper into the US free enterprise system and would lead to a culture of financial bailouts, an accusation Democrats say is false.

But Obama countered by saying the proposed reform will help level the playing field in the financial industry by making sure all lenders - not just community banks - are subject to tough oversight.

He said the bill under consideration will prevent banks from taking too much risk and will give shareholders more say on executive pay.

"The Wall Street reform bill in Congress represents the strongest consumer financial protections in history," the president pointed out. "You'll be empowered with the clear and concise information you need to make the choices that are best for you. We'll help stop predatory practices, and curb unscrupulous lenders, helping secure your family's financial future."

Once the senators finish offering amendments, they will have to come to an agreement on ending the debate. And if that is achieved, the reform proposal could be brought to a final vote as early as Wednesday.

If approved, the reform bill will have to be reconciled with a proposal that passed the House of Representatives in December and was then sent to the president for his signature.

"There's a lot of work going on, a lot of conversations," Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, a sponsor of the bill, told reporters. "Things are going well. I hope by the end of next week it's done."

But on Monday, senators will still have to discuss some amendments inspired by the Greek financial crisis.

For example, an amendment offered by Republican John Cornyn of Texas would give the US representative at the International Monetary Fund the right to oppose rescue packages designed to help foreign states if there was concern that the money would never be repaid.

Another amendment would enhance the powers of the Federal Trade Commission, a body that ensures the fairness of market competition in order to enhance consumer protection.

Obama closely follows the debate. On Wednesday, he blasted an amendment offered by Republican Senator Sam Brownback that would shield automakers from scrutiny by the proposed consumer protection agency.

"We simply cannot let lobbyist-inspired loopholes and special carve-outs weaken real reform that will empower American families," the president said, urging the Senate to continue to defeat the efforts of special interests to weaken protections for all consumers.

On Tuesday, lawmakers adopted an amendment designed to make the US Federal Reserve more transparent.

Source: AFP

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