Obama Says Reform Will Hold Wall Street Accountable

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WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama declared victory Friday after congressional negotiators reached a dawn agreement on a sweeping overhaul of rules overseeing Wall Street.

Lawmakers shook hands on the compromise legislation at 5:39 a.m. after Obama administration officials helped broker a deal that cracked the last impediment to the bill — a proposal to force banks to spin off their lucrative derivatives trading business. The legislation touches on an exhaustive range of financial transactions, from a debit card swipe at a supermarket to the most complex securities deals cut in downtown Manhattan.

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Speaking to reporters as he left the White House to attend an economic summit of world leaders in Toronto, the president said he was “gratified” for Congress’ work and said the deal included 90 percent of what he had proposed. He said the bill, forged in the aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown, represents the toughest financial overhaul since the Great Depression.

“We’ve all seen what happens when there is inadequate oversight and insufficient transparency on Wall Street,” he said. “The reforms working their way through Congress will hold Wall Street accountable so we can help prevent another financial crisis like the one that we’re still recovering from.”

Asked by reporters whether he can get the financial measure through the Senate, Obama said, “You bet.” He said he will discuss the regulations with other leaders at the Toronto meeting because the recent economic crisis proves that the world’s economies are linked.

Lawmakers hope the House and Senate will approve the compromise legislation by July 4. Republicans complained the bill overreached and tackled financial issues that were not responsible for the financial crisis.

The bill would set up a warning system for financial risks, created a powerful consumer financial protection bureau to police lending, forced large failing firms to liquidate and set new rules for financial instruments that have been largely unregulated.

“It took a crisis to bring us to the point where we could actually get this job done,” Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd said.

In its breadth, the legislation would affect working class homebuyers negotiating their first mortgage as well as international finance ministers negotiating international regulatory regimes.

The bill came together during a time of high unemployment for American workers, huge bonuses for bankers and rising antipathy toward bank bailouts.

“It is reassuring to know that when public opinion gets engaged it will win,” said Rep. Barney Frank, the chairman of the House-Senate panel that merged House and Senate bills into one piece of legislation.

House negotiators voted a party line 20-11 in favor of the final agreement; senators voted 7-5, also along party lines.

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