Financial reform still on the table

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Financial reform still on the table

Politico – Bipartisan financial reform negotiations survived another day on Capitol Hill.

While no breakthroughs were made Thursday and legislative details remained elusive, hope remained alive that senators could deliver President Barack Obama a sweeping financial reform package within weeks.

Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd huddled with most of the Democrats on his committee late Thursday, briefing them on his on-going negotiations with Republicans over the legislation's most divisive element: consumer protection. Dodd and his chief negotiating Republican partner, Bob Corker of Tennessee, have been working on a conceptual plan to build a new consumer protection division at the Federal Reserve – an idea that remained on the table despite harsh criticism from the members on the left, who blame the Fed for setting the stage for the economic meltdown.

Dodd’s Democratic colleagues emerged from the hour-plus meeting in his Russell offices sounding optimistic notes.

Democrats still have “a few differences but I think it’s coming together,” said Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), stressing – as every senator did – that nothing has been agreed to yet.

“I think we’re going generally in the right direction,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), one of several key Democrats who had greeted the Fed-based consumer body with skepticism. “We’re working for the best consumer protection [entity] possible,” he said.

Brown reiterated his preference for a stand-alone Consumer Financial Protection Agency – the administration’s preferred proposal – but acknowledged that it might not be possible to pass a bill with a separate new agency.

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