Sweeping bank regulatory overhaul passed in US House of Representatives

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

The United States House of Representatives passed a sweeping overhaul of the financial industry on Wednesday.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.
Cquote1.svg Never again, never again should Wall Street greed bring such suffering to our country. Cquote2.svg

—House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md, after new sweeping financial regulations were passed on Wednesday

The US House of Representatives passed a significant overhaul of financial regulations that strengthens the government's hold on banks and also creates a new federal agency to oversee consumer lending on Wednesday.

"Never again, never again should Wall Street greed bring such suffering to our country," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD after the bill was passed by the House.

The House vote, which was mainly split over party lines, had 237 representatives in favor and 192 opposed. Only three Republicans voted for the bill, though this was an increase from December, when no Republicans voted for the previous version of the bill. This new bill combines the old December bill with a newer one passed by the more conservative Senate last month.

But even though the Senate passed their bill already, support for the one passed Wednesday looks a little uncertain. Since earlier this year the Democrats lost their 60 vote filibuster majority, they had to secure the votes of a few more moderate Republican senators to beat back procedural hurdles. Democrats struggled to win the full support of these senators even after backing down on a US$19 billion tax on big banks and hedge funds, which had been opposed by Republicans. This group of senators includes Scott Brown, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. All three voted for the Senate bill last month.

The $19 billion tax was inserted in the 2000 page plus bill late last week, which came as a surprise to many large banks. Brown initially objected to the tax, and threatened to vote against the entire bill if the tax was not removed. Instead, the new way of financing the bill's cost will be using $11 billion in cash that came from ending the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a bill passed in 2008 that bailed out struggling banks, and also by increasing rates that banks pay to insure bank deposits to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. However, the increase in rates won't affect banks with assets of less then $10 billion.

On Wednesday, Collins wrote a statement saying that she now planned to vote for the bill. However, Brown remained on the fence and said he would use recess during the week of July 4th to examine the details of the bill. He credited Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd for "thinking outside the box" in coming with a new way to fund the bill.

Other Republicans were much more opposed to the bill, and attacked it for failing to place tighter restrictions on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage giants that helped trigger the economic and housing meltdowns. House Republican leader John Boehner compared the new bill to using a nuclear weapon on an ant. In response, President Barack Obama said in a speech in Racine, Wisconsin that "[i]f the Republican leader is that out of touch with the struggles facing the American people, he should come here to Racine and ask people if they think the financial crisis was an ant."


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