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WASHINGTON — Prodded by national anger at Wall Street, the Senate on Thursday passed the most far-reaching restraints on big banks since the Great Depression. In its broad sweep, the massive bill would touch Wall Street CEOs and first-time homebuyers, high-flying traders and small town lenders.
The 59-39 vote represents an important achievement for President Barack Obama, and comes just two months after his health care overhaul became law. The bill must now be reconciled with a House version that passed in December. A key House negotiator predicted the legislation would reach Obama's desk before the July 4th holiday.
The legislation would give Democrats another achievement to campaign on in November's elections — and Republicans another target.
Under sweeping financial overhauls, home buyers won't be able to get a mortgage without producing pay stubs or other evidence that they can make their monthly payments. A new consumer watchdog will police lenders who offer impossible-to-resist subprime mortgages and then jack up the interest rates to impossible-to-pay levels.
The bills also shine more light on complex but hidden financial instruments, the "derivatives" that made long-odds bets on whether Americans could make payments on mortgages they never should have qualified for.
"Our goal is not to punish the banks but to protect the larger economy and the American people from the kind of upheavals that we've seen in the past few years," Obama said earlier Thursday.
'Finance industry tried to halt regulations with hordes of lobbyists'
The financial industry, Obama said, had tried to stop the new regulations "with hordes of lobbyists and millions of dollars in ads."
Only two Democrats, Sens. Maria Cantwell and Russ Feingold, voted
against the bill. Feingold said it did not go far enough to rein in Wall
Street and end a culture of "too big to fail."
Republicans uniformly opposed the bill at every turn. Just four
Republicans — Sens. Charles Grassley, Scott Brown, Olympia Snowe and
Susan Collins — broke ranks with their party to support it.
As House and Senate negotiators meet to work out differences in the
bills, the common ground between the two bills will likely tilt toward
making the bill tougher on banks rather than weaker. If anything, the
political environment has grown more populist since the House passed its
bill in December.
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