- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Senate Republican leaders said Wednesday they are ready to end their stall tactics and allow a full floor debate on bill that calls for massive regulatory overhaul of the financial services sector.

Republicans three times this week voted against ending a filibuster that would have advanced the bill toward a final vote, saying that they were trying to buy time to let negotiations with Democrats produce a better bill. President Obama has endorsed the Senate bill.

But by Wednesday afternoon Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was apparent that the negotiations were going nowhere, and said he was ready to debate and vote on the bill.

“Now that those bipartisan negotiations have ended, it is my hope that the majority’s avowed interest in improving this legislation on the Senate floor is genuine and the partisan gamesmanship is over,” the Kentucky Republican said.

Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, said the panel’s chairman, Sen. Christopher S. Dodd has assured him that a number of Republican concerns will be addressed.

“I appreciate Chairman Dodd’s assurance that my concerns relating to ending bailouts will be included in his bill. I take him at his word,” Mr. Shelby said.

But Republican leaders also faced pressure in their own ranks from members who said the filibuster of the measure — upheld almost entirely with GOP votes — could not be sustained indefinitely, in light of public polls supporting action in Congress to limit Wall Street abuses.

Mr. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, characterized his negotiations with Mr. Shelby as “productive,” but said he “cannot agree to his desire to weaken consumer protections given the enormous abuses we have seen.

For the last year-and-a-half, I have worked with Senator Shelby as I crafted the bill to reform Wall Street. They have been productive talks, but I cannot agree to his desire to weaken consumer protections given the enormous abuses we have seen.”

A key sticking point has been a proposed $50 billion taxpayer-supported fund that would allow the government to dismantle failing firms that threaten the economy. Republicans say this proposal amounts to a permanent bailout authority for the government, a characterization Democrats reject.

The legislation, which calls for the most sweeping regulatory overhaul of Wall Street since the Great Depression, includes provisions for greater consumer protections and tighter government control of the financial industries and the largely unregulated market in derivatives.

The measure calls for a new oversight council, working separately from the Securities and Exchange Commission, to monitor the financial system. The agency would identify and regulate firms so large and interconnected that their collapse would put the entire financial system at risk —a scenario that prompted Congress in 2008 to approve hurriedly an unpopular $700 billion Wall Street bailout.

The House has already passed its version of the bill, and any final Senate measure must be reconciled with the House version.

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