The wait is over: U.S. lawmakers Thursday put the finishing touches on the nation’s most sweeping financial reform legislation since the Great Depression. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act passed a final vote Thursday afternoon after the Senate voted earlier in the day to end debate on the bill. President Barack Obama can now sign off on the bill that he has supported since its inception.
“Today represents a significant milestone in the history of financial regulation in the United States,” said Sheila C. Bair, FDIC Chairman. “With the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a meaningful framework is now in place that addresses many of the weaknesses in our financial system that led to the financial crisis.”
The Senate ultimately passed the bill, 60-39. The measure needed a simple majority vote to pass.
What’s in The Bill?
The financial reform legislation, which the government designed in an attempt to protect consumers and the economy as a whole from the risky practices of banks that helped cause the financial crisis, makes a number of tangible changes to functions of the U.S. economy.
• More Regulation: Government regulatory groups will have more authority to monitor many segments of the financial industry, including mortgage lending and the trading of complex financial products. The additional oversight is meant to keep lenders away from risky loans and practices to stabilize the economy as a whole. A new, nine-member council will be in charge of the nation’s biggest financial institutions, and measures will be taken to separate banks from the appointing of Federal Reserve leaders.
• Fewer Bailouts: Instead of bailing out struggling financial institutions, the government will now create plans to dissemble large financial firms and sell off their pieces to other banks. Institutions will be forced to keep bigger reserves, or “safety nets,” to use in the case of crisis to help avoid a situation like the government’s $700 billion bailout of big banks.
• Breaks for Retailers: Retailers will reap the benefits of the government’s move to limit interchange fees. Interchange fees are the costs retailers pay credit card companies each time you swipe your card at the counter. Retailers will be allowed to give discounts for cash purchases, meaning you might want to start carrying cash more often. This could cost banks billions of dollars each year, prompting them to move away from offering products like free checking.
• Additional Consumer Protection: A new group called the Consumer Protection Agency will try to shelter consumers from predatory lending practices. The agency will lay down rules for trading and enforce overarching regulations on large banks. In the future the agency will attempt to make it more difficult for banks to tack fees onto accounts. The consumer protection measures include assurance of a free credit report each year from AnnualCreditReport.com and the abolition of prepayment penalties on mortgages.
• Separation of Investment and Consumer: Institutions will be forced to separate their consumer banking divisions from their investment banking divisions. This move — known as The Volcker Rule — would bar banks from using their own money to make most trades unrelated to consumer banking. Banks’ investments in hedge funds or private equity funds will be limited to 3% of the fund’s total worth and 3% of the bank’s equity.
How They Voted
The vote followed party lines closely. All but one of the 56 Senate Democrats voted for the bill while just three of 40 Senate Republicans broke rank in favor of the legislation. Two Independents voted in favor of the bill.
Financial overhaul was especially popular along the East and West coasts. The six Senators from Washington, Oregon and California all voted for expanded regulation, while only one of the 22 Northeastern Senators voted ‘no.’ The three Republicans to vote for expanded regulation hailed from Maine and Massachusetts.
Senators from states such as Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia, among others, voiced resounding disapproval with unanimous votes against the measure.
The President praises Congress
The President praises Congress for passing a financial reform package that brings new accountability to Wall Street and helps provide economic security to individuals, families and businesses: