Finance reform deadline set

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said he will continue talks with Republican senators, but he will press forward without firm GOP support and unveil overhaul legislation on Monday.

“What I’m facing mostly is the 101st senator — and that is the clock, particularly in an election year,” Dodd said on Thursday. “And that 101st senator, that clock, becomes a rather demanding member.”

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Democrats would look to pass the regulatory package before the Memorial Day recess.

“We’re going to have to take this up and send a bill to the House to start a conference process,” Reid said on Thursday. The House passed financial overhaul legislation in December, one year after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Dodd scheduled a markup for the week of March 22.

Over the past few weeks, Dodd and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) have been deep in negotiations on the regulatory package and particularly on the thorny issue of how to boost consumer protections for financial products.

Corker said Thursday that the negotiations were on the “5-yard line” and that he was disappointed they were not finished. He blamed politics, including the healthcare debate, for complicating the talks.

“There is no question that White House politics and healthcare have kept us from getting to the goal line,” Corker said in a press conference.
Corker specifically mentioned plans by the White House and Democrats to move healthcare through the Senate before the Easter break with the use of controversial budget reconciliation rules that would prevent the GOP from filibustering the bill.

He called reconciliation the “elephant in the room” and said that Dodd was “a victim of healthcare policy.”

Corker said he expected the bill Dodd will unveil will be “a little to the left” of where the negotiations had stood and that it would be “travesty” if the committee markup lasts only one week.

Corker, a freshman Republican, turned heads earlier this year when he stepped forward to negotiate directly with Dodd after talks between Dodd and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) had reached an impasse.

On Thursday in his own press conference, Dodd commended Corker for working with him on the bill, and said the final bill will include “a lot” of the Tennessee Republican’s ideas.

But Dodd wasn’t optimistic that he would be able to win Corker’s vote.

“I’m not, necessarily, because a lot of things still haven’t been worked out,” Dodd said.

Dodd, Corker and their staffs were in constant talks with administration officials, particularly at Treasury, and Corker said all sides had made significant progress on the issue of consumer protection.

He said that most of the remaining issues were “20 rungs deep” and that Senate Republicans had come together on giving a new consumer office rule-writing power over the vast bulk of the financial industry.

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The consumer office was going to be housed at the Federal Reserve, and though it would have power over rules, its authority on enforcing those rules was limited to banks.

Non-bank financial companies were going to be left out of the enforcement powers.

Corker said the largest unanswered issues in the negotiations centered on provisions to require loan originators to retain risk and provisions to regulate the multitrillion-dollar financial derivatives market.

Alexander Bolton and J. Taylor Rushing contributed to this report.