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GOP wants Dodd to slow down on financial reform legislation

By Brady Dennis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 14, 2010; A03

Republicans on the Senate banking committee said they remain open to finding a bipartisan agreement on legislation to overhaul financial regulation, but they warned the chairman, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), against trying to push a bill through too quickly.

"While we remain open to finding commonground and to working diligently toward passage of bipartisan legislation, we believe a markup scheduled in haste would certainly prevent us from achieving that goal," said a letter, signed by all 10 Republican committee members and obtained by The Washington Post.

Dodd, who has been in close negotiations for several weeks with freshman Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), announced Thursday that he would move forward with an updated version of a bill on Monday without Republican support. He also said he plans to start hashing out details of the bill in his committee the week of March 22, ahead of the legislative recess.

In their three-paragraph letter to Dodd, Republicans balked at such an ambitious timetable.

"Given the sheer magnitude and complexity of the financial reform package you intend to introduce, this legislation will inevitably have a substantial impact on our financial system and overall economy," they wrote. "Accordingly, we urge you to allow for sufficient time to review the language."

The letter is from the ranking Republican, Sen. Richard C. Shelby (Ala.), and has been signed by every other GOP member of the committee, including Corker.

Dodd introduced his first set of proposals in November. He spent months in unsuccessful negotiations with Shelby before switching course and trying to hammer out a bill with Corker.

"We've been considering this bill for over a year," Kirstin Brost, a spokeswoman for Dodd, said Saturday. "The public wants Wall Street reform yesterday."

After weeks of discussions, the two sides said they were close to an agreement but had not finalized the details on key issues, including the enforcement powers of a consumer watchdog, the scope of the Federal Reserve's regulation over banks, and the financing of a new authority that would allow the government to wind down large, distressed financial firms.

The enforcement powers of the consumer watchdog, which is expected to be housed at the Federal Reserve in the forthcoming bill, has been one of the key sticking points between Dodd and Corker. Republicans want an elaborate appeals process to resolve conflicts between the consumer agency and regulators charged with keeping banks in good health. Corker said last week that he thought the two sides had found consensus on the matter. Other government sources said Dodd had expressed openness to the idea but had not agreed to it.

Among other issues, oversight of derivatives and reform of corporate governance rules remain unresolved. Congressional aides have said those elements, however, were not expected to be significant roadblocks to a deal. If senators reach consensus on them, amendments could be added later, the aides said.

Democratic staff members have been scrambling this weekend to try to shape a bill by Monday that will garner support from fellow Democrats while preserving the progress that Dodd has made with Republicans.

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