After a year of rancorous partisan debate, the U.S. Senate voted to pass the most sweeping overhaul of financial regulations since the Great Depression Thursday, handing President Barack Obama a key election year victory.
Until the end, the bill was the source of bitter battles on Capitol Hill, with Democrats urging action to protect the economy and rein in Wall Street, and Republicans portraying the measure as a massive government intrusion on the private sector.
The GOP is hoping that its message of big government over-reach proves more attractive to voters this fall than Democrats' appeal to popular anger at Wall Street.
The final vote was 60-39, with every Democrat voting for the bill except Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) who has maintained that it doesn't go for enough to crack down on Wall Street firms. President Obama is expected to sign the bill when it reaches his desk.
Reforming Wall Street, Protecting Consumers
The 2,300 page financial reform bill is designed to prevent future financial meltdowns like the one that doomed Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and AIG while plunging the economy into a deep recession. The measure would give federal regulators the power to seize failing financial institutions that post a "systemic risk" to the economy.
The bill would also give regulators tighter control of hedge funds and private equity firms, as well as the complex financial derivatives at the heart of the sub-prime mortgage debacle. And it would create a new consumer protection agency designed to combat lending abuses.
Senate Democrats, who barely managed to force a final roll call with with 60 votes Thursday morning, portrayed the bill's passage as a victory against Wall Street greed.
"Wall Street rigged the game," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, in comments cited by the Associated Press. "They put our money on the table. When they won, they won big. The jackpots they took home were in the billions. But when they lost and, boy did they lose big, they came crying to the taxpayers for help."
GOP Opposes, Boehner Calls For Repeal
But Republicans blasted the bill as a big government jobs killer. "We're going to be driving jobs and business overseas with this massive piece of legislation," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)
The bill had not even passed the Senate when an influential Republican, House Majority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, called for its repeal Thursday morning.
"I think it ought to be repealed," Boehner said, in comments cited by Politico. "There are common sense things we should do to plug the holes in the regulatory system that were there and to bring more transparency to financial transactions."
"I think the financial reform bill is ill-conceived," he added. "I think it is going to make credit harder for the American people to get."
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