Wall St. Bill Fight Pits Car Dealers Vs. the Pentagon

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While many of the differences that have to be resolved between the House and Senate versions of the financial reform bills involve arcane bank rules and how to handle derivative contracts that very few people actually understand, there is one battle that pits car dealers against the Pentagon and could impact millions of Americans.

Both bills create a powerful new consumer affairs office in the government to enforce rules to make sure that people who get loans understand them and aren't pushed into loans they can't afford. The idea is to prevent the kind of "liar loans" and other mortgages that crashed and burned and resulted in so many foreclosures and helped push the country into recession.

But it goes farther to regulate all kinds of loans and to make sure consumers aren't ripped off by credit card companies, department stores or even the neighborhood payday loan shop.

One of the biggest providers of these personal loans are car dealers and they lobbied furiously to be exempted from the new rules -- arguing they had nothing to do with the financial meltdown and shouldn't be punished with new regulations and forms to fill out.

The House exempted the car dealers but the Senate did not, leaving that hot potato for the conference committee that has to merge the bills.

The Pentagon comes in because officials there started lobbying too and they want the car dealers covered in the bill. That's because they argue that young service members are too frequently ripped off by shady car dealers who set up business near bases and push young soldiers into car loans they can't afford.

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Bob Fuss is CBS Radio News' Capitol Hill Correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.