US Senate Passes Historic Financial Overhaul Bill

Washington, May 21 (IANS) In a major victory, the US Senate has passed a sweeping financial regulatory bill, marking a milestone of the nation's biggest overhaul of financial regulations since the 1930s.

The landmark legislation, which aims to reshape both Washington and Wall Street, was passed Thursday by a vote of 59 to 39, with a few Republicans crossing the aisle to join the vast majority of Democratic senators in support of the bill, Xinhua reported.

Under the US legislative procedure, the bill would now go to a House-Senate conference to reconcile differences in the legislation before it can be sent to President Barack Obama for signing into law.

The far-reaching financial rules aims to curb Wall Street's high-risk practices blamed for the global economic meltdown of 2008, solve the systemic risk of the "too big to fail" problem among financial firms, and create a consumer protection agency to better protect Americans.

It will also try to ban commercial banks from trading in speculative investments and impose state interest rate caps on credit card issuers, among other changes.

The US House passed its version of financial overhaul in December 2009. The Senate's bill was proposed by Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, earlier this year.

"This is not a zero-sum game where Wall Street loses and Main Street gains," Obama said earlier Thursday after the Senate cleared a key 60-vote hurdle blocking final action.

"Our goal is not to punish the banks," he said, "but to protect the larger economy and the American people from the kind of upheavals that we've seen in the past few years. Today's action was a major step forward in achieving that goal."

Obama said the final version of the bill will hold financial firms accountable but not stifle the free market.

"Over the last year, the financial industry has repeatedly tried to end this reform with hordes of lobbyists and millions of dollars in ads, and when they couldn't kill it they tried to water it down. Today, I think it's fair to say these efforts have failed," Obama said.

The president said: "We still have some work to do. The House and the Senate will have to iron out the differences between the two bills. And there's no doubt that during that time the financial industry and their lobbyists will keep on fighting."

Analysts said it will not be easy for the two chambers to reconcile on the final bill since there are considerable differences between the two versions.

They also noted that Wall Street big banks, including JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, could be hit hard by the new rules.


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