Obama presses for action on Wall St. reform as Democrats plot agenda

President Barack Obama called on the Senate to quickly pass Wall Street reform legislation after a critical meeting about the congressional agenda with leading Senate Democrats.  

Obama praised the “breakthrough” on the bill, gave credit to three Republican senators for supporting the legislation without mentioning them by name, and said he hoped to sign the sweeping overhaul of financial rules by next week.

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“What members of both parties realize is that we can’t allow a financial crisis like this one that we just went through to happen again,” Obama said in comments from the White House Diplomatic Reception Room. “This reform will prevent that from happening.”

The passage of Wall Street reform could serve as the last big legislative victory for the president before this fall’s midterm elections, which is now less than four months away.


Polls suggest Democrats are in danger of a historic drubbing that could give Republicans power of the House or even the Senate. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs himself on Sunday acknowledged there is “no doubt” that Republicans are in striking distance of taking control of at least one of the chambers.

After checking financial reform off his list of legislative agenda items, Obama and Democrats are hoping they can pass a number of other items in the short July work period that will enable them to mount a strong defense against Republican attacks leading to the November midterm elections.

At the top of that list is another attempt to extend unemployment insurance benefits, as well as the confirmation of Obama’s second pick for the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Elena Kagan. The Senate also must move an emergency spending bill for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Gibbs said the White House also hopes the Senate can move forward on legislation establishing a $30 billion fund to increase the flow of credit to small businesses. The economy continues to hammer Democrats, who are frustrated that businesses are not doing more hiring to reduce the nation’s 9.5 percent unemployment rate.

Prospects for broad reforms of the nation’s immigration laws and a climate change bill appear questionable at best, though senators were expected to discuss these issues at the White House on Tuesday with Obama.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Sens. Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Charles Schumer (N.Y.) were among those scheduled to meet with Obama Tuesday morning.

Gibbs described the workload for the Senate as “substantial.”

“Whether it’s extending unemployment insurance to those that have been out of work for longer than in any recession since we began keeping statistics on long-term unemployment, making progress on funding for Afghanistan, a small-business lending package — there are a whole host of things that are important and the president believes should be done,” he said.

Aides to Obama acknowledge that some items, like ratifying the new START treaty with Russia, will have to be deferred until after the August recess.

Republican Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) have signaled they will vote with Democrats on Wall Street reform.