Congress put its final stamp on the financial regulatory overhaul Thursday, sending the reform package to President Obama for his signature.
The Senate, 60 to 39, approved the version completed by a conference committee formed last month to reconcile House and Senate versions. The House had approved the conference report June 30. The president is expected to sign the bill next week.
The bill's passage culminated what seemed like endless debate over the most sweeping overhaul in the financial sector since the Great Depression, and represented another major legislative victory for the administration.
Yet as lawmakers heralded the bill's passage, they highlighted the work that is still left up to the regulators to implement the measures.
"We have given the regulators a very detailed framework but I don't think it's up to us to go down to the micro management level. That's what they are there for," Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said at a press conference before the final vote.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., agreed the onus will next be on the regulatory agencies.
"The top challenge for the regulators is to get on the stick and get going and to carry out the clear determination behind it that we get the cops back on the beat because they got off the beat on Wall Street," he told reporters. "It's that I think more than anything else that they've got to feel and understand and be motivated by because there is a dozen places in the bill where the strength of the point will be in the hands of the regulators."
Democratic leaders needed the help of three key Republicans to pass the legislation. Earlier in the day, the Senate voted 60 to 38 to prevent a filibuster and move the bill to a final vote. Joining Democrats in invoking cloture were Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of the Maine, and Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass.
The bill would create a financial stability oversight council of federal regulators, led by the Treasury secretary, for the purpose of identifying and knocking down emerging threats in the financial system.
To limit the impact of a systemically significant firm failing, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. would be given expanded resolution powers to unwind the company.
The bill would also require most derivatives contracts to be centrally cleared and traded on exchanges and would require banks to push out certain types of swaps such as commodities-based swaps into affiliates.
It would establish an independent consumer financial protection bureau housed within the Federal Reserve Board.
The Fed would be required to regulate interchange fees on debit transactions to ensure they are reasonable and proportional with the cost of processing payments.
Other provisions include the so-called "Volcker Rule," which would ban banks from engaging in proprietary trading and limit their investments in hedge funds and private-equity groups.
The bill would require federal regulators to establish mortgage underwriting standards to ensure borrowers can afford to repay their loans and would require lenders to retain 5% of a loan's risk when packaging mortgages into securities that do not meet such standards.
This story has been reprinted with permission from American Banker.
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