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Washington Report: Updates from Capitol Hill

Next in Line: Financial Regulatory Reform

With healthcare reform out of the way, lawmakers will now turn their attention to President Barack Obama’s next domestic priority when they return to Washington next week–financial services industry reform. The administration hopes to get a final bill passed by Memorial Day.

“We think this is picking up momentum,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin told reporters at a briefing this week. “There’s a clear understanding of the importance of enacting legislation sooner rather than later.”

The House of Representatives has already passed a reform bill. Before breaking for recess, the Senate Banking Committee passed a bill by a vote of 13 to 10, without a single Republican in support of it. It now must be considered and voted on by the full Senate before it can be reconciled with the House version.

Black lawmakers are particularly anxious to implement financial reforms because they represent some of the communities that have been hardest hit by mortgage brokers that have taken advantage of borrowers who didn’t understand what they were getting into.

After staging a mini coup in December, ten Congressional Black Caucus members who sit on the House Financial Services Committee were able to get the committee to include in the House bill an amendment that would establish an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion at each of the seven financial regulatory agencies to ensure that the voices of minority consumers are heard.

Details surrounding the creation of a consumer financial protection agency (CFPA) are still being negotiated. The bill introduced by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) calls for the agency to be placed within the Federal Reserve Bank. The House bill would make it a stand-alone agency. The House bill also exempts automobile dealers from CFPA regulation. Wolin says the administration opposes exemptions for certain lenders and wants to see it stripped from the bill. He also said that the administration would fight any efforts by Republicans or lobbyists to water down the Senate banking committee’s bill.

“The president made clear that it’s strong enough, that we would oppose efforts to weaken it,” Wolin said.


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