President Barack Obama on Saturday accused Republicans of spreading misinformation about a Democratic bill that aims to tighten oversight of Wall Street banks and their practices.
After successfully shepherding his healthcare overhaul through Congress, Obama is now pushing hard for a legislative victory on financial regulatory reform, a popular issue with voters ahead of congressional elections in November.
The Senate is expected to vote within weeks on the reform bill, which Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address would "hold Wall Street accountable" and put in place rules to ensure U.S. taxpayers would never again be called upon to bail out companies in financial trouble.
"Never again will taxpayers be on the hook because a financial company is deemed 'too big to fail'," Obama said.
Under the controversial Troubled Asset Relief Program launched under the Bush administration, $700 billion was set aside to help banks and automakers.
But Republicans insist the Democratic bill will lead to more taxpayer-funded bailouts and say it establishes new regulatory powers that will stifle small businesses and community banks.
Obama said he still hoped to win Republican support for the bill, but he lashed out at Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, accusing him of making a "cynical and deceptive assertion that reform would somehow enable future bailouts -- when he knows that it would do just the opposite."
Obama similarly accused Republicans of spreading misinformation during his tumultuous year-long effort to sell his healthcare reform plan to skeptical Americans.
HOLDING WALL ST ACCOUNTABLE
All 41 Republicans in the 100-seat Senate expressed their opposition to the financial reform bill in a letter on Friday but said they were still willing to work with Democrats on the issue.
Opinion polls show bankers are deeply unpopular with U.S. voters after the financial crisis tipped the economy into deep recession, leaving hundreds of thousands without jobs.
"What is clear is that this crisis could have been avoided if Wall Street firms were more accountable, if financial dealings were more transparent, and if consumers and shareholders were given more information and authority to make decisions," Obama said in his radio address.
Obama said the proposed reforms would ensure greater transparency of financial dealings, give consumers more financial protection and close loopholes that had allowed some firms to take huge risks that threatened the whole economy.
The Obama administration has taken a more aggressive stance on Wall Street since the Democrats lost a Senate seat in Massachusetts in January. The election highlighted voter resentment against big banks and big bonuses.
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