Senate Financial Reform Bill Expected Next Week

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Republican member Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) hope to have a draft version of a bipartisan bill on financial regulatory reforms next week with markup beginning the following week, according to Dodd's office..

"They are working away," said Dodd spokeswoman Kirstin Brost.

Christopher Dodd (CT - D)
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Corker's office would not confirm the timeline.

"Sen. Corker is continuing to try to move the ball forward on getting a good piece of legislation, and we continue to hope we'll be successful in that effort," said Communications Director Laura Herzog,

In an unusual move two weeks ago, Corker and Dodd joined forces, after negotiations between Dodd and the ranking GOP committee member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) reached a stalemate after weeks of meetings and discussion.

Both senators at the time said they hoped to have a bill by the end of the month.

Shelby is now working on his own version of the bill, according to Congressional and industry sources.  So-called substitute bills are common, if sometimes token, in Congress, but Shelby's is thought to be a serious alternative.

"It's meant to be something that Democrats and Republicans could agree on," said one policy analyst familiar with the Shelby bill in progress.

Though progress is being made on the Dodd-Corker, the status of one previous sticking point between Republicans and Democrats is unknown.

That is the matter of consumer protection. Dodd’s original draft bill in November contained the creation of a new, powerful agency to handle the role, similar to that in the House’s version, which was approved on the floor in late 2009.

Republicans are opposed to that approach, although they acknowledge the need for some new measures.

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN)
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“Both sides of the aisle see the need to deal with consumer protection,” Corker acknowledged in a recent interview with CNBC.com.

Latest alks have included something of a compromise wherein a new agency would be created within an existing one with some measure of independence.

President Obama, however, strongly supports the new agency concept, and has stated its importance from the early days of the legislative process.

There appears to be agreement on other key parts of the bill, which include federal resolution authority for too-big-to-fail financial institutions, as well as the creation of a systemic regulator.

Corker, among others, has underscored the importance of these two components and prior to his assuming a greater role in the broader legislative process, had spent weeks working on those issues with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), as part of a committee approach that paired Republican and Democratic members to handle certain parts of the bill to increase the chances of working out a bipartisan version.

Washington analysts say time is running out, with the White House no doubt anxious for progress on the bill.

The president recently has stepped up his own efforts to push the regulatory reform agenda, weaving into many speeches, which is seen as a way of supporting Dodd's efforts.

"If there is not a push on these kinds of things, it doesn't get the attention it needs," said one senior Congressional staffer familiar with Democratic push for reform. "The president being out there and talking about this gives Dodd a certain amount of cover."

There are also logistical concerns. Any compromise draft bill will be part of a long process, starting with debate at the committee level. And even if the Senate approves a package of reforms, it is likely to require reconciliation with the House version, followed by more voting.