President Obama says as the nation's economy rebounds from last year's collapse, legislation is needed to prevent a recurrence of the behavior that caused the problems.
"Much of it was due to the irresponsibility of large financial institutions on Wall Street that gambled on risky loans and complex financial products, seeking short-term profits and big bonuses with little regard for long-term consequences," he said. "It was, as some have put it, risk management without the management."
In his weekly radio and Internet address, the president is asking the Senate to quickly follow the House of Representatives in passing financial reform legislation.
"Because we should never again find ourselves in the position in which our only choices are bailing out banks or letting our economy collapse," he added.
A bill being considered by the Senate Banking Committee would create an agency to oversee consumer banking and break up companies that threaten the economy.
The House passed a similar bill, 223 to 202, with no Republican support. Mr. Obama blasted House Republicans for meeting with financial industry lobbyists and encouraging them to fight the legislation.
"Not that they needed the encouragement. The industry has already spent more than $300 million on lobbying to influence the debate this year," he said.
The proposal would create the biggest restructuring of the U.S. financial industry since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Mr. Obama says the economy is growing again, and American consumers seem to agree. The Commerce Department says the nation's retail sales increased by 1.3 percent in November, and a separate University of Michigan study showed that "consumer sentiment" improved in December. Both figures were better than expected.
The president also acknowledges that unemployment remains at ten percent, but says the flood of job losses has slowed to a trickle.