Senate Approves Sweeping Financial Overhaul
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
A sweeping measure to overhaul Wall Street regulations has made it through the Senate. The bill creates a new bureau focused on consumer protection. It provides for government supervision of the derivatives market, and it sets up a council of regulators to monitor the financial system for risks.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada calls the bill a victory for Main Street.
Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada; Senate Majority Leader): For those who wanted to protect Wall Street, it didn't work. They can no longer gamble away other people's money. The days of too big to fail are over. For them, the game is over.
SIEGEL: NPR's Audie Cornish joins us now from Capitol Hill. And, Audie, this is being called the biggest change in Wall Street regulations since the Great Depression. Outline some of the high points for us.
AUDIE CORNISH: Well, what the bill tries to do is deal with the symptoms of the economic crisis that we saw nearly two years ago. So if you remember those abusive and predatory home mortgage practices that people were complaining about, well, there's a new regulator, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, that would be created in the Federal Reserve with its own budget and chief who would police that industry, that industry along with the credit card industry and other kinds of loans.
There is also the issue of derivatives, people bundled up loans, sliced and diced the debt and traded them on derivatives markets. Well, this bill would put that market onto a formal exchange, similar to stock exchanges.
And lastly, the bill would try and prevent the kind of ad hoc hustle you saw with regulators who had to create the taxpayer bailout system to help giant firms that were failing. This bill would create a formal process for dissolving giant financial firms using something similar to what we do now with the FDIC and smaller banks.
SIEGEL: That's some of what is in the bill that the Senate passed this evening. Tell us some of the things that aren't in the bill because of compromises that had to be made to get it passed.
CORNISH: Well, you have liberal Democrats pushing really hard for amendments that would, one way or another, limit the very size of banks, limit how big these financial institutions could get, and those amendments really didn't get very much support.
You also had Republicans and conservatives really pushing for a special bankruptcy code. Instead of this special, what they call, resolution authority, the special system to dissolve firms, they say just put them through their own kind of bankruptcy and that will be fine. That didn't get anywhere either.
But the big compromise actually came right at the end. You had two amendments that - their fates were tied together because for procedural reasons, they were linked. One would carve out auto dealers from under the oversight of that consumer agency I talked about earlier, and the other one would strengthen rules in the bill that restrict banks from doing certain kinds of risky trades with their own money.
Basically, Republicans and Democrats decided to pull both amendments rather than to have votes on either. And so at the last minute, those amendments were trashed, and the bill went to final passage.
SIEGEL: Of course, the bill still has to be reconciled with what the House does, but once again, the news is the financial regulation overhaul has been approved by the Senate. Thank you.
NPR's Audie Cornish on Capitol Hill.
CORNISH: Thank you.
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