- The Washington Times - Friday, March 12, 2010

Unable to muster bipartisan agreement on key banking provisions, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, chairman of the Senate banking committee, said Thursday he will offer his own version of a sweeping overhaul of financial regulations without Republican support. “Clearly, we need to move along,” he said.

A month of talks between the Connecticut Democrat and Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, had found common ground, but details on key provisions, including consumer protections and other sticking points, remained unsettled.

“As time moves on, you just limit the possibilities of getting something done, particularly a bill of this magnitude and this complexity,” Mr. Dodd said.

He said he hoped the Senate could act on a bill sometime in the spring.

Mr. Dodd’s go-it-alone choice comes in the midst of an emerging culture of high partisanship on Capitol Hill, where Democrats and Republicans have been at odds for more than a year on health care changes, little progress has been made on climate change and energy legislation, and members of both parties watch warily as an angry voting public continues to show heavy disdain for incumbents.

While Mr. Dodd praised Mr. Corker and insisted his proposed bill would incorporate many Republican ideas, the development raised new questions about Congress’ ability to respond to a financial crisis that erupted more than 18 months ago with the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

Congress and the administration have been trying to assemble an overhaul of regulations in hopes of preventing a recurrence of the 2008 Wall Street meltdown. It has not been an easy task. The House passed its version of a bill in December on a party-line vote.

“It will continue to be a challenge to reach a bipartisan deal,” said Scott Talbott, the chief lobbyist for the Financial Services Roundtable, an association of the banking industry.

Mr. Corker on Thursday said he and Mr. Dodd had made significant progress and had agreed in principle on consumer protections, one of the most contentious issues. He described himself as disappointed in Mr. Dodd’s decision but said he expected Mr. Dodd’s proposal would be more moderate than a bill Mr. Dodd drafted late last year.

Still, Mr. Corker blamed Mr. Dodd’s rush to propose a new bill on the current dispute over health care and pressure on Mr. Dodd to offer a bill before the Senate puts the health care bill through a bitterly partisan fast-track process.

“He made me aware that with reconciliation coming, he felt a need to go ahead and, regardless of where we were in negotiations, to put forth a bill on Monday,” Mr. Corker said, using the term that describes the process that makes it easier for majorities to succeed. “I understand the pressure that he is under.”

Mr. Dodd, who is retiring when his term ends in January, said the attention to health care was one of several factors driving the clock on financial regulations. He pointed out that this is an election year and that there few opportunities ahead to get a bill through committee, pass it in the Senate and then reconcile the differences with the House version.

“The time is shrinking to get this done,” he said.

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