President Barack Obama said Tuesday he believes Democrats will still have enough votes to pass the final version of Wall Street reform even with the death of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.).
Byrd, who died early Monday morning, was a critical vote for the financial reform package that recently made it out of conference; the president had hoped to sign the bill into law by July 4 but it appears the Senate vote will have to be delayed.
Obama, after a meeting with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, told reporters he is confident that senators from both sides of the aisle will support the package, which he said will provide "some certainty" for the markets that are currently filled with "skittishness and nervousness." He also said the legislation will protect consumers "like never before.”
Obama said he is more concerned with losing Byrd as a senator and a friend than as a vote on one of his key domestic agenda items.
"I'm concerned about the fact that a giant of the Senate and a close personal friend of mine passed away," Obama said.
He said he doesn't think of Byrd's death "in the context of financial reform."
"I’m confident that given the package that has been put together, that senators, hopefully on both sides of the aisle, recognize it’s time we put in place rules that prevent taxpayer bailouts and make sure that we don’t have a financial crisis that can tank the economy," the president said. "And I think there’s going to be enough interest in moving reform forward that we’re going to get this done."
Bernanke joined Obama at his daily economic briefing, where both men said they are optimistic the economic recovery will continue if Congress continues to shepherd it along.
"We have enormous potential to build on the hard work that's been done by this team and put people back to work and keep this recovery and economy growing over the next several years," Obama said. "But we can't let up."
The president hailed five months of job growth, but bemoaned the loss of 8 million jobs over the course of the global economic crisis.
To that end, Obama said, "We've still got a lot of work to do."