Another Delay

 Congress was in recess last week for the President’s Day holiday, but Senate Banking Committee staff remained focused on financial reform. Despite the fact that committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) was spending his break on a congressional trip to Central America – by happenstance with his new negotiating partner Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) – the committee staff announced that the Chairman would release his “new wide-ranging bill" this week. As of today, that deadline has already slipped to the first week of March, meaning that the committee will not markup the legislation until the second or third week of March at the earliest.

We are hearing reports that the new draft will establish a council of regulators, led by the Treasury Secretary, responsible for monitoring systemic risk across the entire financial system. There have also been reports the draft will include provisions for a new bankruptcy-like system to wind down institutions previously considered “too big to fail.” The FDIC is expected to have a key role in that process.

Separately last week, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the committee’s Ranking Republican, announced that he was working on a Republican alternative to the Chairman’s financial reform draft. Shelby has made no public statements about Corker’s decision to work with Dodd, but the fact that Shelby is producing his own bill speaks volumes.

There is a lot of prognosticating right now. Corker’s positions are far more in line with Shelby’s than Dodd’s. The question is will Corker be able to convince Dodd to pass a streamlined bill that deals with a few key issues and tables the thorny issue of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency? Many industry experts are saying that Dodd and Shelby would have already worked out that deal if it was possible, and the Republican caucus is likely of the same mind, which puts Corker in a tough position. The outlook for financial reform continues to be very uncertain.



The Volcker Rule, Bipartisan Progress, and a Chance of Snow

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) continue to work towards bipartisan agreement on at least some key elements of a financial reform measure. While the process has been a rocky one, both Senators appear to be working hard to find common ground. They appear to have found agreement on at least two things:

1. There will NOT be a stand-alone Consumer Financial Protection Agency.  Rather, consumer protections functions will be folded into another agency or agencies.

2. The president's proposal to limit the size of financial institutions (the "Volcker rule") has complicated the process and may have come too late in the game.

Our contacts on the Hill are telling us to expect committee action on a financial reform package by the end of the month. Regardless of the final outcome of the Dodd-Shelby discussions, the Chairman appears committed to moving ahead.

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