Hoyer: Dems still expect conference on Wall Street reform bill

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) signaled Thursday that House Democrats still expect a conference on Wall Street reform legislation if and when it passes the Senate.

Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, echoed what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has previously said, which is that they expect to go through the formal conference process to hash out differences between House and Senate language on financial reform.

"I think we're going to pass this piece of legislation through the Senate, we'll have a conference report, and we'll come out with a strong bill," Hoyer said during an appearance on CNBC.

Senate politics had forced Democrats to opt out of a formal conference on their last major legislative priority, healthcare reform. Because Republicans control 41 seats in the Senate, if they all vote together, they can deprive Democrats of the 60 votes needed to move forward with any given piece of legislation.

Such a move by the minority Republicans had played out over three days earlier this week, when the Senate voted three times against beginning debate on their Wall Street reform bill. After a deal was struck Wednesday afternoon, Republicans agreed not to object to a request to begin formal debate.

The House bill, which passed with all Republicans in opposition in December, differs in some significant ways, especially on derivatives and a new consumer financial protection agency. It's not clear whether inserting some of those House provisions into the final legislation might resurrect GOP opposition to the bill once it makes its way back to the Senate.

Still, Hoyer predicted Republicans would go along with the legislation, if for no other reason than out of concern for being seen as siding with Wall Street.

"They could, but they would do it at their peril, and I think they know that," Hoyer said of GOP opposition, adding that they had been "feeling the heat from the public."

"I certainly think that they're going to have their input," Hoyer said of Republicans' role in the financial reform debate going forward.

Asked if the House would bypass going to conference on the sweeping financial regulation overhaul bill, Barney Frank told The Hill on Wednesday afternoon "no, not a chance."

The House Financial Services Committee chairman said "we're going to have a conference," even though he noted that there were "not huge differences" between the House-passed bill and Dodd's.

Frank refused to discuss those differences however.

That sentiment was echoed by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) who told The Hill earlier Wednesday that “we think the bill needs to pass and go to conference. We have some differences but we think this is a good bill but we have differences and want to go to conference and reach consensus.”

A House Democratic leadership aide explained that the Speaker wants to go to conference to "show what Democrats want and what (Republicans) are for."

Democrats  have attempted to paint Republicans as standing with Wall Street, a messaging tool that Republicans have worked hard to counter so much so that conservative lawmakers in the lower chamber have been trying to help their colleagues in the Senate overcome.

Updated at 12:31 p.m.

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