Nearly two years after a Wall Street meltdown left the economy reeling, the House of Representatives passed a massive overhaul of financial regulations that would extend the government’s reach from storefront thrifts to the executive suites of Manhattan.
The Senate on Wednesday was forced to delay to the middle of this month its vote on the compromise bill, which denied US President Barack Obama a victory before the US Independence Day holiday on Sunday. Democrats struggled to secure the votes of a handful of Republican senators even after meeting their demands and backing down on a US$19 billion tax on big banks and hedge funds.
Legislation to repair the systemic problems that led to the US economic meltdown is among Obama’s major goals.
The legislation, swelling to more than 2,000 pages, would rewrite the nation’s regulatory books and reach from storefront thrifts to the high-finance penthouses of New York City. Simple supermarket purchases and exotic trades in derivatives would be subject to new laws.
The entire financial system would be placed on a risk watch in hopes of thwarting the next threat.
The 237-192 House vote broke along party lines, following a pattern set in December when no Republicans voted for the House version of the bill. The new legislation combines the House bill with one passed by the Senate last month.
“Never again, never again should Wall Street greed bring such suffering to our country,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said.
Republicans portrayed the bill as a vast overreach of government power that would do little to prevent future bailouts of failing financial institutions. They said that it failed to place tighter restrictions on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the hybrid government-private mortgage giants forced into huge federal bailouts after their questionable lending helped trigger meltdowns in housing and the financial system.
“This legislation is a clear attack on capital formation in America,” said Representative Eric Cantor, the second-ranking Republican leader in the House. “It purports to prevent the next financial crisis, but it does so by vastly expanding the power of the same regulators who failed to stop the last one.”
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