Dodd to Offer Own Financial Reform Plan

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Unable to muster bipartisan agreement on key banking provisions, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd said Thursday he will offer his own version of a sweeping overhaul of financial regulations without Republican support.

A month of talks between Dodd and Republican Sen. Bob Corker found some common ground but failed to yield agreement on consumer protections and other sticking points.

"Together we have made significant progress and resolved many of the items, but a few outstanding issues remain," Dodd said in a statement. Dodd said he still aimed to get a consensus bill, but said time was running out.

Dodd's go-it-alone choice is in keeping with an emerging culture of high partisanship on Capitol Hill, where Democrats and Republicans have been at odds for over a year on health care changes, little progress has been made on climate change and energy legislation, and members of both parties watch warily as an angry voting public continues to show heavy disdain for incumbents.

"We have reached a point where bringing the bill to the full committee is the best course of action to achieve that end," he said. Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, plans to have the Banking Committee take up the bill the week of March 22.

He said he and Corker would continue to hold talks. Corker planned to comment on the legislation later Thursday morning.

The development raises new questions about one of President Barack Obama's top priorities. Congress and the administration have been trying to assemble an overhaul of regulations in hopes of preventing a recurrence of the financial crisis that hit the nation in the fall of 2008. The House passed its version of a bill in December on a party-line vote.

Dodd in November proposed a draft bill that drew swift Republican objections. Dodd, aware that he now needs Republicans on the bill to overcome a Senate filibuster, then tried to negotiate with the committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama. When those talks stalled, Dodd turned to Corker, of Tennessee, in hopes of bridging some differences.

The main obstacle remains a proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency that the president has made one of the central provisions in the bill. The House version provides for such a stand alone agency, which would regulate institutions that offer credit, mortgages or other consumer financial products.

Republicans, bankers and many in the business sector oppose a separate agency, saying it would add another layer of regulation and bypass existing bank regulators.

Dodd had proposed placing such an agency inside the Treasury Department and giving federal bank supervisors some say in the consumer entity's regulations. Corker countered with a proposal to place the agency inside the Federal Reserve. But the two were unable to find common ground on how much independence to give it.



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