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Obama Pushes Financial Reform During Midwest Trip

  • Kent Klein

U.S. President Barack Obama took his campaign to reform the nation's financial system to the American Midwest on Wednesday. The president spoke as Senate Republicans agreed to end several days of resistance to the legislation.

President Obama told a crowd in the town of Quincy, Illinois that Congress needs to pass financial regulatory reforms, to protect consumers and the U.S. economy.

"Speaking of you getting a fair shake, that is why we need good old common sense Wall Street reform and we need it today," said President Obama.

Opposition Republicans in the Senate agreed Wednesday to allow debate on the legislation to proceed, after blocking it three times in three days.

The top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee,Senator Richard Shelby, said Democrats had assured him that they would consider Republican amendments to the bill.

Mr. Obama said he was very pleased that Republicans decided to let the debate continue.

"And I want to work with anyone, Republican or Democrat, who wants to pursue these reforms in good faith," said Mr. Obama.

The bill was proposed by the Obama administration and is supported by the Democratic majority in the Senate. The House of Representatives passed a version last year.

The legislation is intended to regulate the financial practices that are blamed for the global economic crisis in 2008, including the complex transactions known as derivatives.

It would force large financial companies to pay into an emergency fund for failing banks, to prevent taxpayers from having to do so.

The president says his plan would also guard consumers from abusive financial practices.

"Consumers have to be protected," he said. "We have to end bailouts. We have got to make sure that these trading practices are out in the open. We have got to make sure that people have a say in terms of how these firms operate, so they are more accountable."

Republicans say the legislation would fail to end taxpayer bailouts of troubled financial firms, and they oppose the creation of a new consumer protection agency.

Mr. Obama's appeal came one day after Senators from both parties sharply criticized executives from the Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs for their business practices.

Quincy was the last stop on the president's two-day visit to the corn-growing states of Illinois, Missouri and Iowa. Much of the visit was focused on advancing a plan to increase investments in renewable energy.

Earlier Wednesday, he toured a factory where corn is refined into ethanol fuel, and he promoted his goal of tripling U.S. ethanol production in 12 years.