Senators could approve an amendment to reestablish the separation between banks' commercial and investment operations, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) suggested.
Warner, a member of the Senate Banking Committee who's been closely involved in negotiations over a Wall Street reform bill, said that while he opposed such a measure, the Senate could get the votes to reimpose the Depression-era Glass Steagall law.
"It may have a chance," Warner said during an appearance on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" of the chances for passage of an amendment to reimpose the law, which was repealed by Congress in 1999.
The Senate will begin voting on amendments next week to Democrats' Wall Street reform bill in a bid to improve the legislation and win Republican support for the underlying bill. Warner said that he expect that process to wrap up by the end of this month, when lawmakers break for a Memorial Day recess.
A bipartisan group of senators have pushed for the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall, which would force banks to separate their commercial and investment activities. Other key amendments would seek to make more explicit that public funds cannot be used to bail out banks, limit the size of banks, audit the Federal Reserve, and more.
Warner said that he personally opposed the reimposition of Glass-Steagall, reasoning that it would put the U.S. financial services industry at a competitive disadvantage versus firms in other nations.
"I think that we can't unscramble those things. A lot of senators wish they had their votes back in 1999 when they basically did away with the walls and the barriers between investment banking and banking that Glass-Steagall had in place," Warner said. "But the world has changed pretty dramatically."
The first-term Virginia senator said that the council of regulators called for in the Senate legislation would address problems with the size and activities of firms in a better way than reimposing Glass-Steagall would.
"But let's let them make that judgment in an orderly fashion," Warner said of the council of regulators, "rather than potentially putting American firms at a competitive disadvantage to an increasingly interconnected financial world."