Senators want GAO to examine perks of 'too big to fail'

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Backers of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law have argued that the Wall Street overhaul puts in place tools to end "too big to fail," by allowing regulators to identify the most powerful and integral financial institutions, ramp up oversight of them, and unwind them in an orderly fashion if they face insolvency.

But skeptics point out that the biggest banks have only gotten larger since the financial crisis, and contend that if another meltdown of that magnitude were to occur, the government would still be hard-pressed to allow them to fail.

The two senators hope to bring the measure to the Senate floor for passage via unanimous consent, according to Vitter's spokesman. If that attempt fails, the two will begin to push the bill as a standalone measure, either in the waning days of the 112th Congress or after the next session convenes.

The unlikely duo have long teamed up on the "too big to fail" issue, pressing regulators to crack down on the largest of the nation's financial titans. For example, the two have pressed regulators to increase the capital standards of the nation's largest banks to ensure they have enough of a cushion to prevent the need for future bailouts.

And they enjoy the backing of smaller banks. The Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) said Wednesday they strongly supported the measure, adding that it would be "shameful" for lawmakers to block efforts to gather more information on "too big to fail."

"We should all want free-market principles to apply across the financial system and do everything possible to ferret out any market distortions fostered by government involvement and subsidies of the largest megabanks," the group said in a statement. "After the financial crisis of 2008, policymakers should seek all available data to address and unwind too-big-to-fail market distortions."