Senators are closer than ever to a bipartisan agreement on Wall Street reform legislation, a top Republican said Wednesday.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, said that while there was no agreement on the financial reform bill, one was nearing.
"We're getting close to that goal, and we're going to continue to work with that," Shelby said during a press conference at the Capitol.
"We're not there yet, but we're closer than we've ever been," he added.
The Alabama senator said that it was unclear how much more time was needed to resolve the differences, and only said an agreement was likely "pretty soon."
Republicans even had kind words to say about the administration's willingness to negotiate and the growing spirit of cooperation in the Senate, a marked change from the hardened rhetoric of the healthcare debate.
"This is the way that I think legislation should be approached, rather than all partisan and heavy handed," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), a member of the Banking Committee.
"I've met with Secretary Geithner and Dr. Summers as well, and I came away believing that we are pretty close," she added. "We have the same goals."
Meanwhile, the Agriculture Committee approved legislation today regulating derivatives with a bipartisan vote. (Sen. Chuck Grassley joined with Democrats on the 13-8 vote.)
Shelby said, though, that robust negotiations had continued throughout the past week despite concerns that a letter from all 41 Republicans pledging to filibuster the bill in its current form might have shut off talks between both parties.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had circulated that letter and maintained discipline among GOP senators throughout the week, despite efforts from the Obama administration to pick off votes.
That letter, McConnell's said, was to express opposition to the bill that had come out of committee, and, the GOP leader said, was to convey Republicans' desire for a bipartisan agreement.
Talks had broken off in early February between Shelby and Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), only to have Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) try for another month to negotiate one-on-one with Dodd. Those talks had gone on hiatus when Dodd pulled out of talks in order to advance his bill through the committee.
On derivatives, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the ranking member of the Agriculture Committee thanked the Obama administration for their "willingness to cooperate, at least sit down and talk" about the derivatives bill," despite Chambliss having opposed the bill.
"There's a bipartisan spirit in the Ag Committee, and Senator Grassley decided to be a little more biapartisan than the rest of us today," Chambliss quipped.
Chambliss said Democrats and Republicans agree on "probably 90% of the issues out there" and expressed optimism they'd reach a deal by the time the legislation comes up for a vote.
"I think it's pretty obvious that [the administration] would like to close that gap even more. Certainly we would," he said.