Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd on Tuesday said Congress needs to fast track financial reform despite Republican pleas to slow down the process to rewrite sweeping new rules.
A day after unveiling his long-awaited reform legislation, the Connecticut Democrat told MSNBC that Congress should not adjourn for its two-week Easter recess on March 26 without addressing financial reform.
"We really can't allow this Congress to adjourn without addressing these basic issues," Dodd said in an interview.
Dodd released his bill on Monday after marathon talks with a few key Republican members of the committee failed to produce a deal on a comprehensive set of rules that will redefine financial firms' supervision and risk-taking.
The Senate Banking Committee will start meeting on March 22 to debate and amend the bill, a process Dodd hopes to have done within a week.
It would then move to the Senate floor where Democrats would need 60 votes to overcome procedural roadblocks that are sure to be thrown up by Republicans. The Democrats control 59 of the 100 Senate seats.
"We've got work to do yet before there's going to be complete bipartisan support for this, but we're on the right track," Dodd later told CNBC in an interview.
Republicans, however, are trying to put the brakes on Dodd's quick timetable.
Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee who tried to revive a bipartisan deal with Dodd before talks collapsed last week, said a one-week deadline for committee passage of the bill was "way too quick."
However, he thinks Congress will still pass a bill this year.
"I think the odds are very high, and I think there are people on both sides of the aisle that actually want to see a bipartisan bill," Corker said on CNBC.
Dodd's bill has been criticized by Republicans who are pushing back on strict new rules for the U.S. financial sector as well as by some Democrats who say his measure does not go far enough to safeguard the public following the worst financial crisis in generations and the deepest recession since the 1930s.
Dodd released the 1,336-page bill on Monday, about two years after massive investment bank Bear Stearns collapsed, followed by the multi-billion-dollar taxpayer bailout of the U.S. financial sector.
The bill unveiled on Monday serves as a placeholder, Dodd said, noting that a proposed consumer watchdog for financial products and increased shareholder rights are two issues "still in controversy."
Corker said Republicans are particularly concerned that activist shareholder groups could gain undue influence over public companies if shareholders are given more power to nominate board directors, know as proxy access.
He also said some provisions of the bill are in flux, such as the so-called Volcker rule that could ban banks from engaging in proprietary trading for their own profit.
Corker said lawmakers could change a provision that would have large financial firms "pre-fund" a government mechanism to unwind troubled firms. Some have argued that an existing fund would be seen as a bailout fund, and have argued that fees should be collected after a troubled firm is dismantled.
Dodd and other Democrats worry that if no action is taken before the recess, lawmakers in Congress could become too distracted by the coming November elections to act on major legislation.
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