The Senate on Thursday voted to pass a sweeping financial regulatory reform bill, overcoming weeks of Republican opposition and handing President Obama his second major legislative victory this year.
"We are giving consumers and taxpayers the strongest protections they've ever had," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., following the 60-39 vote. "We are giving Wall Street the strongest oversight it's ever had -- not to stifle it, but to safeguard us."
President Obama plans to sign the bill next week, just four months after the health care overhaul legislation became law.
Republicans overwhelmingly opposed the bill and are already calling for its repeal, saying the legislation doesn't do enough to protect taxpayers from future bailouts but will create burdensome regulations that will hurt small banks and businesses.
"I think it is going to make credit harder for the American people to get and clearly, harder for businesses to get," House Minority Leader John Boehner said. "And the fact that it's going to punish every banker in America for the sins of a few on Wall Street, I think is unwise."
The bill is aimed at preventing a repeat of the financial meltdown of two years ago by more rigorously regulating Wall Street. It calls for a federally appointed council to monitor the financial system for signs of trouble. The bill would also give the federal government the authority to close distressed financial firms and the power to examine and enforce regulations for banks and credit unions as well as payday lenders and debt collectors.
It also calls for the creation of a new consumer protection agency.
"We must put a cop back on the beat on Wall Street so the jobs, homes and futures of Americans are not again destroyed by excessive greed," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.
The final vote on the bill was hardly the bipartisan agreement anticipated months ago. In late spring, Republicans walked away from negotiations while accusing the White House of interfering and rejecting GOP ideas.
Democrats were left to write the bill on their own and worked for weeks to bring a trio of moderate Republicans on board to get the needed 60 votes.
GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts voted for the bill after Democrats agreed to drop a provision to raise $19 billion by imposing fees on banks.
One Democrat, Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, voted against the bill, saying it wasn't strong enough to prevent big banks from failing again. That concern was shared by other Democrats, some of whom declared the bill simply a stepping stone to further Wall Street regulation.
"What was done in this legislation is a very substantial beginning but it is not an ending," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.
House Republicans on Thursday highlighted the bill as an example an anti-business stance taken by the Democrats. House GOP leaders sent a letter to Obama, asking for him to work more closely with the business community on legislation aimed at improving the economy.