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Financial Regulatory Reform Passes Decisive Cloture Vote, Will Be Signed Into Law in Days

The Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform bill — the product of 18 months of study and negotiation by Democratic and Republican lawmakers — this morning passed a decisive cloture vote, 60 to 38, with Republican Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Susan Collins (Maine) voting with Democrats to move forward to a final majority-rules vote. The House has already passed the measure. After the final Senate vote, which will happen at 2 p.m., President Obama will sign the sweeping bill into law.*

The bill impacts all parts of the financial system, from payday lenders to hedge funds to mortgage underwriters to debit cards. But it contains three central provisions. First, it provides the government with new powers to identify risky banking institutions and to shut them down before they harm the broader financial system, via a new systemic regulator. Second, it makes banks less risky, forcing them to keep more capital on hand, banning them from making risky trades on their own behalf and keeping them from investing heavily in vehicles like hedge funds. Finally, it creates a new consumer financial protection bureau, which will have the power to create and enforce new rules regarding financial products like home-equity loans and credit cards.

Speaking on the Senate floor just before the cloture vote, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) praised the bill:

The Wall Street earthquake that sent shockwaves around the world hasn’t hit anywhere as hard as it hit Nevada. You can draw a straight line from the unchecked greed on Wall Street to the collapse of the housing market on Main Streets throughout my state. As soon as the big banks went down, the foreclosure signs went up.

How did this happen? Let me put it this way: When you go to any of the great casinos across Nevada and put your chips on the table, you’re gambling with your own money. If you win, you win — and if you lose, you lose.

But Wall Street rigged the game: They put our money on the table. When they won, they won big. The jackpots they took home were in the billions. But when they lost — and boy, did they lose big — they came crying to the taxpayers for help. The winnings were theirs to enjoy, but the losses were all of ours to share and to shoulder. That’s the way the market worked: It worked for a few fortunate ones in the big firms and worked against everyone else. So, when I say that’s how the market worked, what I really mean is that it didn’t work at all. It was badly broken — and it nearly bankrupted us.

It cost eight million workers their jobs, millions of retirees their savings and millions of families their homes. It shattered our faith in our financial system. But there’s another problem: We’ve been talking about this rigged system — this raw deal — in the past tense. But it’s not a thing of the past. It’s very much in the present. The rules that allowed Nevada’s economy to collapse are still the same rules of the road today. And that means every new day we don’t act, we run the risk of it happening all over again.

That’s a gamble I’m not willing to take. The bill before us makes sure we don’t have to.

The first question was: How did this happen? The next question is: What are we going to do about it? One, we’re saying to those who gamed the system: The game is over. We’re cracking down on those who gamble away what so many have worked so hard to put away. And two, we’re saying to families and taxpayers: Never again will you be asked to bail out a big bank when that bank loses its risky bets.

Let me say that again, because it’s one of the most important parts of this bill: No more bailouts, because no bank is too big to fail. We’re going to give consumers and investors the strongest protections they’ve ever had against abusive banks, mortgage companies, credit card companies and credit-rating agencies.

He also noted:

This isn’t just about dollars and cents. It’s about fairness and justice. It’s about making sure there’s not a next time. It’s about jobs. And it’s about rescuing our economy. I know Wall Street reform is complicated. There aren’t many people who know all the ins and outs of derivatives trading or credit default swaps or mortgage-backed securities. But the principle before us is really quite simple: You either believe that we need to strengthen oversight of Wall Street, or you don’t. You either believe that we need to strengthen protections for consumers, or you don’t.

Our choice today is between learning from the mistakes of the past and dangerously letting them happen all over again.

  • Note: An earlier version of this post said the final vote would happen tomorrow or Saturday. Just after the cloture vote, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) moved for the Senate to modify its own procedure, and bumped the vote up to 2 p.m.

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