Geithner says financial overhaul will clear Senate with GOP votes

By Brady Dennis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 19, 2010

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said Sunday that efforts to overhaul the financial regulatory system will win bipartisan support in Congress, even as the top Senate Republican continued to attack Democratic proposals.

"I am very confident that we're going to have the votes for a strong package of financial reforms that will bring derivative markets out of the dark, help protect the taxpayers from having to fund future bailouts and trying to make sure we're getting Americans some basic protection against fraud and abuse," Geithner said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Geithner acknowledged that differences remain on key elements of the far-reaching legislation, which could head to the Senate floor in a matter of days. But, he said, despite the lingering policy disagreements, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree on the broad principles that the new rules must accomplish: namely, ensuring that taxpayers are no longer on the hook for rescuing large, troubled financial firms.

The Treasury secretary said he is "very confident" that Republicans will vote for the bill. Those votes, however, have yet to materialize.

Leaders in both parties have exchanged bitter words over the past week, with Democrats arguing that tough new rules governing Wall Street are long overdue and Republicans insisting that the bill heading through the Senate leaves open the door to future taxpayer-funded bailouts.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) kept up that line of attack Sunday, saying on CNN's "State of the Union" that the current bill mandates a $50 billion "bailout fund" that would assure government involvement in failing financial firms "in perpetuity." Advocates of the bill note that the fund in question would be paid for by the financial industry and that it would be used to liquidate troubled firms, not keep them afloat.

McConnell said that lawmakers agree on the need to revamp the current system but that the White House and Democratic leaders must address Republican misgivings about the current legislation before they can expect any GOP support.

"What we ought to do is get back to the table and have a bipartisan bill, which is what we don't have at the moment," he said.

As GOP opposition has stiffened, the Obama administration has made a heightened push to get the legislation through Congress and to portray Republicans as standing in the way of meaningful reform.

Obama used his weekly radio and Internet address to focus on the issue over the weekend, arguing that "if we don't change what led to the crisis, we'll doom ourselves to repeat it." A White House official said Sunday that the president is expected to take that message outside of Washington in coming weeks.

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