By Silla Brush - 03/15/10 01:25 AM EDT
When he unveils financial overhaul legislation on Monday, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) will be attempting to reconcile liberal demands for tough action against Wall Street with the vote-counting realities of the Senate.
Dodd spent months negotiating with Republicans behind the scenes to garner bipartisan support for an overhaul package intended to prevent future financial crises. But after all the twists and turns and weeks of deep negotiations with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Dodd is left without GOP support.
Those liberal and conservative criticisms leave Dodd in the tricky middle, with a potentially treacherous path forward on one of President Barack Obama's highest domestic priorities this year. Democrats hold 59 seats in the Senate and will need to attract at least one Republican vote to break a filibuster.
Dodd is set to retire at the end of the year and the makeup of both the House and Senate could be dramatically different in January, with Democrats headed into a challenging midterm election.
"I don't have a lot of time left in this Congress. I think all of us who have been in this room and around the years know how this can go by very quickly," Dodd said Thursday.
Dodd has scheduled a markup for the week of March 22 and the bill he unveils will likely include many of the ideas discussed with Corker. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Democrats would look to pass a financial bill through the Senate by the Memorial Day break.
All 10 Republicans on Dodd's committee pleaded over the weekend for more time to consider such wide-ranging legislation, in a sign of the potentially unanimous opposition the bill will face from the GOP.
A source briefed on the plan said it would include Federal Reserve supervision of banks with $50 billion in assets or more; a consumer office at the Federal Reserve with power to write rules, limited enforcement authorities and similar preemption powers as passed the House; and a resolution system that favors bankruptcy proceedings.
A compromise with Corker in lieu of a standalone Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) continues to irk consumer advocates and liberal Democrats. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) called it "a horrible idea" to replace the agency proposal with a consumer office at the Fed.
Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Charles Schumer (N.Y.) were wary of the idea. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) panned the idea and has criticized the Fed for falling down on its regulatory role in the run-up to the crisis.
The concerns stretch beyond the highest-profile issue of consumer protection. Five Democratic senators last week unveiled a tough provision to rein in big banks and prevent them from engaging in proprietary trading. The proposal, based on the administration’s "Volcker rule," was backed by Democratic Sens. Merkley, Carl Levin (Mich.), Ted Kaufman (Del.), Brown and Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.).
But earlier this year, Dodd said he was reluctant to spelling out such detailed restrictions on big banks in the financial package and felt that the late proposal from the Obama administration would complicate negotiations.