Political Notebook

Financial overhaul expected to pass

March 25, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Despite opposing a financial regulatory overhaul bill in the Senate Banking Committee earlier this week, Republican Senators Robert Corker and Judd Gregg said yesterday that Congress will approve the legislation this year.

There’s a “100 percent chance’’ the legislation will be passed this year, Gregg of New Hampshire told members of a US Chamber of Commerce meeting in Washington. Gregg and Corker of Tennessee talked with reporters after speaking at the meeting.

“This is an issue that almost every American wants to see passed,’’ Corker said. “There will be a lot of pressure on every senator and every House member.’’

The banking panel voted 13 to 10 Monday to pass a bill written by Senator Chris Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat who leads the committee. Corker said Republicans, who unanimously opposed Dodd’s plan, made a ‘’strategic error’’ by letting the committee approve the measure without offering or debating amendments.

Dodd and Representative Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and a Democrat who represents the Newton area, met with President Obama yesterday morning on overhaul efforts. With Frank’s help, the House passed its version of the measure late last year.

Obama, who signed the comprehensive health care bill into law yesterday, now wants to move quickly on the biggest overhaul of Wall Street rules since the Great Depression.

“I’m much more optimistic in light of what happened on health care,’’ Dodd told reporters after the meeting, which also included Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers, White House economic adviser.

Dodd’s bill, based on a proposal Obama unveiled in June, would set up a consumer protection bureau at the Federal Reserve and limit the central bank’s oversight to the largest lenders.

Dodd is aiming to get the bill through the Senate before the end of May, he said. He plans to work with Frank to resolve differences in their bills to minimize the need for negotiation after the Senate version is approved.


Group’s ad effort against overhaul called misguided
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration went on the attack yesterday against the country’s biggest business lobby over resistance to an overhaul of the financial rules system.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin told the US Chamber of Commerce on its own turf that a reworking of the financial system was sorely needed and that the attempted obstruction by the chamber was misguided.

“It is so puzzling that despite the urgent and undeniable need for reform, the Chamber of Commerce has launched a $3 million advertising campaign against it,’’ Wolin told a business audience at the organization’s headquarters, a block from the White House. The chamber — “funded, no doubt, with a good deal of your money — has launched a lavish, aggressive, and misleading campaign to defeat’’ the new consumer protection agency proposed by the legislation, Wolin said.

The audience politely applauded at the end of Wolin’s remarks, but Thomas Donohue, the chamber’s chief executive, said, “I think the Constitution is very clear on our right to raise our issues.’’


Brown, Biden talk sports, families, jobs during lunch
WASHINGTON — The only thing grilled during his lunch with Vice President Joe Biden yesterday was the chicken being served, Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts said.

Such topics as sports and families dominated the discussion, along with health care and jobs, said Brown, whom the vice president had invited to lunch after swearing him in last month. “We talked about the Red Sox, women’s basketball, our families,’’ said Brown, a Republican who won a special election for Edward M. Kennedy’s seat in January. “It was a lot of fun.’’

Brown and Biden got into a spat last month after Biden said on “Face the Nation’’ that the new senator did not understand the military tribunal system and Brown responded that Biden’s comments were “insulting.’’

That issue didn’t come up yesterday, Brown said. “He knows I’m in the military. He understands obviously I know what I’m talking about when it comes to terrorism and those sorts of things, and there was no conversation about that.’’

While eating a grilled chicken salad, Brown said he laid out his problems with the health care bill that passed Sunday. He told the vice president he hoped the administration would now turn its attention to job creation. “The conversation was very plain English, no inhibitions,’’ the senator said. “I enjoyed it very much.’’