Historic Wall Street reform bill signed

After a protracted legislative battle, an elated President Obama on Wednesday signed into law a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s financial rules, cementing a third major piece of his legislative agenda since taking office.

Mr. Obama billed the massive legislation as a law that empowers consumers, puts an end to the era of taxpayer bailouts and brings “the shadowy deals that caused this crisis into the light of day.”

“In the end, our financial system only works — our market is only free — when there are clear rules and basic safeguards that prevent abuse, that check excess, that ensure that it is more profitable to play by the rules than to game the system,” Mr. Obama told a crowd gathered at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. “That’s how we will ensure that our economy works for consumers, that it works for investors, that it works for financial institutions, that it works for all of us.”

The law creates a new watchdog agency within the Federal Reserve that will be charged with protecting consumers in financial transactions and gives the government more power to break up failing companies. It also gives the Federal Reserve more power, while subjecting the central bank to greater congressional oversight.

The bill — the target of fierce lobbying by banks and business groups — represents one of Mr. Obama’s key legislative priorities after the stimulus bill and the health-care overhaul. It attracted only a handful of Republican votes in the House and Senate.

“Passing this bill was no easy task. To get there we had to overcome the furious lobbying of an array of powerful interest groups and a partisan minority determined to block change,” Mr. Obama declared.

The Republican leadership in Congress objected to the bill’s omission of any provisions for new oversight of the government-owned mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and argued that it doesn’t go far enough to prevent taxpayer bailouts.

“All told, this bill would impose 533 new regulations on individuals and small businesses, regulations that will inevitably lead to the kind of confusion and uncertainty that will make it even harder for struggling businesses to dig themselves out of the recession,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnnell said in a floor statement Wednesday. “And it’s just this kind of uncertainty that businesses cite time and again as one of the greatest challenges to our economic recovery.”

Though passage of the financial overhaul is a major victory for Mr. Obama, his to-do list still remains long. The outlook for a comprehensive energy bill this year is uncertain, as is congressional appetite for the type of broad immigration bill he’s pushing.

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About the Author
Kara Rowland

Kara Rowland

Kara Rowland, White House reporter for The Washington Times, is a D.C.-area native. She graduated from the University of Virginia, where she studied American government and spent nearly all her waking hours working as managing editor of the Cavalier Daily, UVa.’s student newspaper.

Her interest in political reporting was piqued by an internship at Roll Call the summer before her ...

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