Democrats Make Final Push On Financial Overhaul

Democrats have been struggling to round up the 60 votes they'll need to push the financial regulations bill over the finish line. They agreed to some changes in the bill Tuesday in order to win some Republicans' votes.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

NPR's business news starts with more negotiations on financial reform.

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KELLY: In Congress, the financial overhaul bill is entering its final stages and lawmakers are still tweaking the details. Key moderate Republicans in the Senate were unhappy about a proposed tax on banks that was contained in the bill. Those Republican votes are considered crucial for the bill's passage. And so yesterday House and Senate negotiators met to work out another compromise.

NPR's Audie Cornish reports from Capitol Hill.

AUDIE CORNISH: Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown was among the handful of Republicans who began to reconsider their support for the legislation because of a $19 billion fee it would've imposed on the largest banks.

Senator SCOTT BROWN (Republican, Massachusetts): Do you think the banks are going to pay it? No. The individual consumers are going to pay this in the middle of a two-year recession through higher ATM fees, credit card bank fees. It's going to hurt lending, small business and individual lending.

CORNISH: But dropping the fee meant that the bill would run into problems with budget rules. So Senate Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd offered an alternative to offset the cost. First, cut off the Troubled Asset Relief Fund used to bail out banks three months early. Second, charge the banks more to insure their customers' deposits.

Senator CHRISTOPHER DODD (Democrat, Connecticut): Coming up with a pay-for in all of this is not easy. I'll acknowledge that. It's difficult. But nonetheless, we bear that obligation to do so.

CORNISH: That accounting didn't go over so well with some Republicans.

Senator JUDD GREGG (Republican, New Hampshire): If we did this in a private sector action, we would all be in jail. This is fraud on the American taxpayer. That's clear and simple.

CORNISH: But New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg and other GOP members were outvoted and the measure was approved.

With this agreement, Democrats may have the votes they need for final passage, but they're not likely to send legislation to the president's desk until after next week's recess.

Audie Cornish, NPR News, the Capitol.

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