End game in sight for Wall Street overhaul

Congress is headed toward a final vote this week on Wall Street overhaul legislation, nearly two years after the financial crisis sank the economy into the worst recession since the Great Depression.



Senate Democrats were planning a key test vote as early as Thursday after clinching the 60 votes necessary to overcome procedural hurdles. That would then set up a final vote on the legislation for Thursday or Friday. The House already approved the measure. 



Democrats solidified support for the bill when Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Scott Brown (Mass.) announced they would vote in favor of the 2,300-page legislation.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who has wavered on the financial legislation this year, said Tuesday he would also support the measure. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who had opposed the bill in May, said earlier that she would vote in support. Sen. Russ Feingold (Wis.) is the lone Democratic opponent of the bill.



Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said he expected a final vote to be held on either Thursday or Friday, depending on the amount of debate time after the cloture vote to end debate.



The financial bill largely resembles the White House’s original proposal for new financial regulations, outlined a little more than a year ago. The bill sets up a new consumer financial protection regulator, a council of regulators to oversee systemic risks, new oversight of the $600 trillion derivatives markets and a new system for winding down failing financial firms. 



The House passed its version of the legislation in December, during the height of the healthcare overhaul debate. The Senate passed a version of the bill that was tougher than many analysts had originally predicted. A conference committee of House and Senate lawmakers put the final touches on the 2,300-page bill and worked hard to preserve the support of Collins, Snowe and Brown.



“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,” President Obama said Tuesday. “This reform will prevent that from happening.”



All but three House Republicans opposed the final version of the bill, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) was the only other Republican to support the version that passed the Senate in May.



A Pew poll conducted in July found that a majority of respondents supported stricter financial regulations. But the poll showed a strong partisan split on the issue: 65 percent of Democrats surveyed supported tougher regulations, compared with 39 percent of Republicans.

In a separate poll by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc., 80 percent of those surveyed said Congress and regulators have not done enough to deal with financial market problems and their effect on investors.



Robert Glovsky, CFP Board chairman, said the poll showed a “visceral” reaction to the crisis and the government’s ability to respond.

“We were on the brink and where was the government protecting us?” he said. “There is an erosion of people’s confidence in government’s ability to protect them.”