News / Economy

US Financial Reform Bill Faces Legislative Hurdle

Alabama Senator Richard Shelby
Alabama Senator Richard Shelby
Michael Bowman

A bill to reform America's financial system and ensure against future meltdowns faces a major legislative hurdle on Monday, when the Senate is expected to vote to begin debate on the measure.  Key Democratic and Republican senators are voicing doubts as to whether the bill will move forward in its current form.

The financial overhaul bill is more than 1,000 pages long and took a year to craft.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a vote late Monday to bring the measure to the chamber's floor for debate, despite Republican threats to block the legislation.

The bill's author, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, was asked if the bill currently has enough support to clear the legislative hurdle. "We are getting there.  We are close.  We have some more work to do.  We are not there yet," he said.

The Connecticut Democrat Spoke on NBC's Meet The Press program. Also appearing was the top Republican on the banking committee, Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, who said the current version of the bill is unlikely to get Republican support. "Not yet, but we are getting there.  What we [Republicans] are trying to do is improve two or three things in it," he said.

The bill seeks to strengthen consumer protections in the financial industry, strengthen regulation and oversight of financial firms, limit the risk-taking ability of banks and other institutions, and establish a procedure for the federal government to liquidate insolvent financial corporations.

Senator Dodd says, without overhaul of the financial industry, the United States risks another financial meltdown.  In 2008, a cascading failure of banks, investment houses and other firms placed the nation in danger of economic collapse and prompted the federal government to spend hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts. "Tomorrow, if another crisis occurred in the country, we are no better off than we were in the fall of 2008.  We have no cops on the beat [government regulation].  Major sections of our economy are unregulated entirely," he said.

But Republicans say the bill is inadequate.  They say it would give the federal government leeway to authorize future bailouts, and that it does not mandate preemptive action to break up institutions that are so large that, if they were to fail, would cripple the national economy.

Senator Shelby said, "The message should be, unambiguously, that nothing is too big to fail, and if you fail we are going to put you to sleep [out of business]."

But some Democrats accuse their Republican colleagues of attempting to delay the bill - not to improve it - but to block financial reform entirely.  Republicans reject the charge.  Polls show Americans bitter and angry about the financial havoc the nation has endured, and strongly opposed to bailouts at taxpayer expense.

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