Administration will fight efforts to water down Dodd bill

Senior Obama administration officials said Wednesday that President Barack Obama will vigorously fight efforts to weaken the current Senate bill reforming the financial regulatory system.

Officials specifically pointed to Republican proposed carve-outs for auto dealers and efforts to keep derivatives trading in the dark as "paradigmatic" examples of attempts to weaken the legislation that Obama would oppose.

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Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin told reporters at the White House that the legislation is "picking up momentum," and that administration officials have stayed in touch with Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and other senators throughout recess.

Wolin said Obama has also been personally engaged throughout the process, and administration officials "have been hugely active on the Hill and that's going to continue until we get it all the way across the finish line."

While Wolin and other officials acknowledged that there are still a great deal of "granular" details to be worked out, they did say there is "a surprisingly high level of overlap and agreement" between Dodd's bill and the one that passed the House last year.

The White House and Senate Democratic leadership have said they expect Dodd's bill to make it to the Senate floor shortly after Congress returns next week. Obama officials say they want the Senate to pass a bill by the end of May, and they want the president to be able to sign a bill by early fall -- the two-year anniversary of the peak of the financial crisis.

A wide range of interest groups have lobbied aggressively against a new consumer financial protection office. Auto dealers, for example, were successful in winning an exemption under the House bill, and they are now pressing their case in the Senate.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) is planning to offer legislation to carve out auto dealers from the new consumer office.

"Auto dealers are retailers, not banks, and are already subject to a host of federal and state regulations that protect consumers," Brian Hart, spokesman for Brownback, told The Hill on Tuesday.

Silla Brush contributed reporting.

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