MADELEINE BRAND, Host:
Here in Washington, big changes to the nation's banking system are being considered. Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd will retire this year - he runs the Senate Banking Committee. What Dodd's announcement means for banking overhaul is the subject of our next story by NPR's Audie Cornish.
AUDIE CORNISH: In his retirement announcement in Connecticut, yesterday, Dodd said that after nearly 30 years of enjoying voter confidence he finds himself in the toughest political shape of his career.
CHRISTOPHER DODD: Let me quickly add that there have been times when my positions and actions have caused some of you to question that confidence. I regret that. But it's equally important that you know that I have never wavered in my determination to do the best job, to do the best job for our state and our nation.
CORNISH: Dodd was cleared of any wrongdoing, but Quinnipiac University pollster Doug Schwartz says the damage was done.
DOUG SCHWARTZ: It looked like he was, you know, too cozy with the financial industry - the AIG bonus controversy, another example of him, perhaps, looking like he was too cozy with the financial industry. So, those kinds of things really hurt him.
CORNISH: Dodd spent the last year trying to repair the damage by boosting consumer-friendly issues, such as the passage of new credit card regulations. And his initial drafts of the financial regulatory overhaul were stronger than those of the House or the Obama administration.
BRAND: Is the financial industry cheering or booing?
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
SCOTT TALBOTT: Neither, neither.
CORNISH: Scott Talbott of the Financial Services Roundtable.
TALBOTT: Many have argued that he's moved to the left, to hard left, and many argue that that's a result of the politics and the need to prove or demonstrate to Connecticut voters that he's a populist. With the election removed, those forces will be removed from the equation and therefore might make it easier to craft a bipartisan reg reform bill.
CORNISH: But consumer lobbyists, such as Travis Plunkett, remain optimistic about Dodd's role.
TRAVIS PLUNKETT: Well, it's also an incentive for him to speak his mind, to call the issues as he sees him, to stop special interest deals that the public doesn't know about but that harm their interest.
CORNISH: And economist Vince Reinhart of the American Enterprise Institute, says Senator Dodd's retirement improves the chances of passing a bill.
VINCE REINHART: He's taken this opportunity to create his legacy, to put a capstone to it, namely significant financial reform. So, my betting actually is he will be more aggressive; he will be more ambitious.
CORNISH: Audie Cornish, NPR News, Washington.
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