By Silla Brush - 05/17/10 11:24 PM EDT
Senate Democrats are moving to vote as early as Wednesday on a sprawling Wall Street overhaul bill amid Republican and industry opposition.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed for cloture Monday night to end debate on the 1,400-page bill.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that he believes President Barack Obama will be able to sign financial overhaul legislation before July 4. “That sounds about right,” Gibbs said when asked about the timing.
Republicans have criticized numerous provisions in the bill, but it is unclear if they would close ranks to prevent a final vote on the legislation this week. Republicans held together three times in late April to stop Democrats from opening debate on the measure. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) also voted against the motion, expressing a series of concerns about the consumer office and derivatives regulations.
Republicans eventually relented when Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) agreed on provisions aimed at preventing taxpayers from being exposed to the costs of dissolving failing financial firms.
Republicans argued those changes, including the decision to drop a $50 billion fund paid for by the industry to dissolve failing firms, allowed them to let debate begin.
Dodd is continuing to work on a manager’s amendment to the measure, and a Republican aide said Shelby is reviewing the language. Neither senator has disclosed whether he is close to striking an agreement on the amendment.
A GOP aide said Republican senators continue to have concerns about the measure’s provisions related to the multitrillion-dollar market for financial derivatives, which many blame for exacerbating the 2008 financial crisis.
The Senate will continue to debate a series of controversial amendments that could toughen the bill’s impact on Wall Street. Senators have filed more than 300 amendments, most of which will not come up for a vote. Among others, lawmakers and lobbyists are focusing closely on the following amendments:
• Democratic Sens. Carl Levin (Mich.) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.) are backing an amendment that would ban proprietary trading at commercial banks as well as limit their ties to hedge funds and other alternative investment funds. The amendment would hit big Wall Street firms and require the Federal Reserve to impose higher capital requirements on large non-banks.
• Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) is the main sponsor of legislation that would carve out auto dealers from the oversight of a new consumer financial protection regulator. The amendment is backed by the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA). The White House, Defense Department and Treasury Department have criticized the provision, with the administration releasing a rare statement solely in opposition to the amendment.
• A bipartisan group of senators is looking to alter the financial measure to restrict the ability of state attorneys general from enforcing consumer financial protection regulations. They are looking to ensure the federal government has strong power to pre-empt state officials, while the White House has pushed for more than a year to give states power to pursue tougher regulations than the federal minimum. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said he is pushing to retain current law on pre-emption.
• Senators continue to debate a controversial provision backed by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) that would require commercial banks to spin off their derivatives operations. Banks have lobbied hard against the provision. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Chairwoman Sheila Bair and Paul Volcker, adviser to Obama, have publicly opposed the provision.