President Barack Obama turned up the heat Saturday on lawmakers to pass an ambitious Wall Street regulatory overhaul, as the measure headed for a key vote in the Senate.
“The reform bill being debated in the Senate will not solve every problem in our financial system: no bill could,” Obama said in his weekly radio address ahead of what is expected to be an up-or-down vote in the Senate on Wednesday.
“But what this strong bill will do is important, and I urge the Senate to pass it as soon as possible, so we can secure America’s economic future in the 21st century.”
Obama, aiming to clamp down on the excesses that led to the near-meltdown of the financial system in 2008, is promising the most sweeping regulatory reform drive since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
To push that through, he is trying to build momentum for Democratic efforts in Congress to overcome the Republicans’ resistance and pass a new Wall Street reform law.
Republican leaders have so far been united in opposition to the bill, which seeks to impose tougher regulations on banks and finance firms, and to set up a new consumer financial protection agency.
They say Obama’s reforms would push the heavy hand of government deeper into the US free enterprise system, leading to a culture of financial bailouts, a charge that the Democrats deny.
Obama argued that the proposed reform would help level the playing field in the financial industry by ensuring that all lenders, not just community banks, were subject to tough oversight.
He said the bill under consideration will prevent banks from taking too much risk and will give shareholders more say on executive pay.
“The Wall Street reform bill in Congress represents the strongest consumer financial protections in history,” the president pointed out. “You’ll be empowered with the clear and concise information you need to make the choices that are best for you. We’ll help stop predatory practices, and curb unscrupulous lenders, helping secure your family’s financial future.”
Once the senators finish offering amendments, they will have to come to an agreement on ending the debate. And if that is achieved, the reform proposal could be brought to a final vote as early as Wednesday.
If approved, the reform bill will have to be reconciled with a proposal that passed the House of Representatives in December and then sent to the president for his signature.
“There’s a lot of work going on, a lot of conversations,” Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, a sponsor of the bill, told reporters. “Things are going well. I hope by the end of next week it’s done.”
But on Monday, senators will still have to discuss some amendments inspired by the Greek financial crisis.
For example, an amendment offered by Republican John Cornyn of Texas would give the US representative at the International Monetary Fund the right to oppose rescue packages designed to help foreign states if there was concern that the money would never be repaid.
Another amendment would enhance the powers of the Federal Trade Commission, a body that ensures the fairness of market competition in order to enhance consumer protection.
This video is from the White House, published May 15, 2010.