April 14th, 2010
02:32 PM ET
8 years ago

Obama meets with congressional leaders on financial reform

Washington (CNN) - Congressional leaders from both parties met Wednesday with President Barack Obama to discuss proposals to reform the financial industry, but the talks failed to ease partisan divisions.

Obama welcomed the top officers of the House and Senate from both parties to the White House as the Senate prepares to consider its version of a bill intended to prevent another Wall Street collapse like the one that triggered the U.S. economic recession.

The House has passed its version of the financial regulatory reform bill, and the Senate is preparing to debate a Democratic proposal opposed so far by Republicans.

At the start of Wednesday's meeting, Obama said he wanted Congress to move quickly on passing a bipartisan financial regulatory reform package.

"We cannot have a circumstance in which a meltdown in the financial sector once again puts the economy in peril, Obama said, adding that an "unfettered market in which people are taking huge risks and expecting taxpayers to bail them out when things go sour is simply not acceptable."

Asked if the final legislation would bring a system of future bailouts of failing companies, similar to the government efforts to prop up financial corporations in 2008 and 2009, Obama said: "I am absolutely confident that the bill that emerges is going to be a bill that prevents bailouts. That's the

However, House and Senate leaders who attended the meeting showed no sign of compromise after it ended.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, accused Democrats of pulling out of bipartisan negotiations to try to force through their proposal, which he said would institutionalize federal bailouts for struggling banks and corporations.

"That is clearly the wrong way to go," McConnell said.

Democrats responded that McConnell was untruthful on both counts.

"For them to say it's a bailout for financial institutions just defies credibility in any way," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called the accusation of Democrats undermining bipartisan negotiations "a figment of (McConnell's) imagination."

Also attending the meeting were House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, along with Vice President Joe Biden, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

Obama and congressional Democrats hope the momentum of passing the health care bill earlier this year after a tortuous legislative struggle will help gain approval for another top priority - reforming the nation's financial
regulatory system in the aftermath of the recession.

The Senate bill would create a new consumer regulator that would be housed inside the Federal Reserve but considered independent. The regulator's mission would be to ensure consumers get a fair shake with mortgages and credit cards.

Republicans oppose the extensive rule-making and enforcement powers that the consumer regulator would have, saying they would threaten bank safety and soundness.

Another big area of disagreement involves ways to prevent future collapses of major corporations, such as that of American Insurance Group (AIG). The Senate bill seeks to force trading on complex financial products,
known as derivatives, to be better regulated. However, Republicans and Democrats disagree over the scope of such regulation.

Geithner told reporters after the meeting that Obama will insist that any bill from Congress ensure that any government support for future Wall Street failure comes from large financial institutions, rather than tax dollars. He said reform legislation would include a mechanism for putting failing companies out of business instead of bailing them out.

"When large companies manage themselves to a point where they cannot survive without help from the government, we put them out of business," Geithner said, later adding: "Any risks the government takes are going to be borne by the large financial institutions.

As the White House meeting began, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut, who is leading the effort to pass the bill in the chamber, released the text of a statement he made in the Senate that said Republicans were using Wall Street talking points to oppose the bill that would change the status quo for big banks and corporations.

In particular, Dodd said the opposition strategy sought to link the bill to unpopular federal bailouts of big banks at the start of the recession, instead of focusing on how the proposal was intended to prevent a future crisis.

"It's a naked political strategy, and if it succeeds, and this legislation goes down, and another crisis sinks the American economy, then the next recession and all of the damage it will bring to middle class families will have happened for the sake of that false talking point," Dodd's prepared remarks said.

"It's straight from the Wall Street special interest playbook. And it's just a Wall Street lie," Dodd added in the prepared remarks. "This bill ends bailouts."

He cited strengthened regulatory powers to monitor risks to the financial system, as well as stronger standards on Wall Street firms to prevent those risks.

"Cracking down on the biggest players is critical to ending bailouts," Dodd said, according to the prepared text.

"Our bill imposes tougher standards on large, risky Wall Street firms," Dodd said. "It eliminates the federal government's capacity to bail out individual companies. And it requires that financial firms write their own shutdown plans and then pay for the liquidation process if it's needed."

The Obama administration and Democratic National Committee are trying to generate public support for the measure.

A DNC advertisement airing on cable networks, including CNN, criticizes Republicans for not joining the Obama administration's push for regulatory overhaul. In addition, Geithner touted Wall Street reform in an op-ed piece published Tuesday by the Washington Post.

"We cannot build a system that depends on the wisdom and judgment of future regulators," Geithner's article said. "Even the smartest individuals armed with the sharpest tools will not be able to find every weakness and
preempt every crisis. Instead, the best strategy for stability is to force the financial system to operate with clear rules that set unambiguous limits on leverage and risk."

With congressional mid-term elections coming up in November, Democrats want to pass a financial regulatory bill as soon as possible to avoid the issue getting caught up in the campaign process.

Updated: 3:47 p.m.

Filed under: GOP • President Obama • Wall Street
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Sarah the baby seal basher

    Good,we need to stop the neoCON-ARTISTS from a takeover in the future.The Corporate Fascists are on the march.

    April 14, 2010 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  2. carmikal

    Soooo, I guess the G.O.P will follow the our way or no way scheme again? Are they trying to stick to this strategy in the hopes of being the majority after November? So when they possibly become the majority and the president vetos the hell out of anything because of their current strategy what will be their excuses then? They are getting free $ in D.C.

    April 14, 2010 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  3. SocialismBad

    There he goes AGAIN! "We must act quickly"???????!!!!!!!!!!!

    Yes, act quickly before people can read it over, understand it and debate it and then make a considered judgement!!!! Odumbo is giving the USA the bums rush to disaster. People are starting to smarten up to his mode of operation, ie. rush everything through before the American people know what;s going on.

    The DemocRATS must be thrown out before the country ends up getting rushed to the emergency ward after heading off the financial cliff the DemocRATS have us speedy towards.

    April 14, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  4. Brian

    Unfortunately we should have never bailed them out. No one is going to bail me out if I deliberately make huge financial risks.

    I understand these our institutions that allow our system to operate, however; as we bailed them out they rode off into the sunset with huge amounts of cash and continue to give huge bonuses.

    Will we ever learn.

    We the people deserve better. Instead of enabling and making excuses for we need to begin holding people, organizations accountable for their actions.

    We have become an entiltement country in that everyone feels entitled, if you are entitled then you must also be held accountalbe for the decisions you make and if making decisions to get rich puts your company in a fragile financial situation then you should have to suffer those consequences.

    We did not profit when you profited, but we have to pay when you made mistakes. It cannot be a one-way street.

    April 14, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  5. NotFooledTX

    Mitch McConnell? He met with 25 bankers earlier this week – he's on their side. He's doing nothing but spewing Frank Luntz talking points, I doubt whether he and Boehner even comprehend what's in the bill – especially after hearing McConnells comments. Aside from that, his party lead us to the biggest economic failure since the great depression. His opinion means nothing to me.

    Elizabeth Warren was asked earlier this morning if McConnell was correct, and she clearly stated that he was totally wrong. But, I'd expect his answer since he's clearly siding with the financial industry – protecting their interests.

    April 14, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  6. Rickster

    Obama said:
    "an unfettered market in which people are taking huge risks and expecting taxpayers to bail them out when things go sour is simply not acceptable."

    Seriously?? And what does Einstein Obama think entitlements are? They are individuals expecting taxpayers to bail them out when things go sour and they are destroying this country.

    April 14, 2010 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  7. sonny chapman

    Let me guess; the Repubs. said NO ! or was it HELL NO!!

    April 14, 2010 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  8. Vic

    I just don't understand how any middle class American who saw his/hers retirement funds such as 401Ks loose 30% during the last Wall Street meltdown can continue to believe the non-regulation stance of the Republicans.

    April 14, 2010 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  9. Richard Hill/NH

    I find it very interesting that the GOP is now attempting to stop financial reform on the basis that it " Isn't strong enough to do any good, or that it would lead to another financial breakdown", when they did nothing for 8 years . Now they portray themselves as the ones acting in most Americans best interest by not supporting this reform when really this is nothing but a feeble attempt to make us forget WHAT THEY DIDN'T DO UNDER TWO TERMS OF GWB. These are the guys who always want to privitize profits but socialize loses ( wall street bailout).

    April 14, 2010 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  10. Centerleft

    I love it! The Tea Party are being herded like cattle right in Sen. McConnell arms, only to protect Wall St bailouts. Hey, Tea Party it"s called reverse physiology.

    April 14, 2010 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  11. monasterymonkey

    The philosophical fight for the presidency was lost in 2008 but the Republicans act like it never happened.

    Republicans have no interest in working with the Democrats. Even after losing the health care fight, the party of "NO" will continue its obstructionist stance unless and until they get their way.

    Whether Obama can get his programs passed without a little help from Republicans will determine whether the country moves forward or remains in the pockets of corporate America.

    April 14, 2010 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  12. Larry

    Stop bailing out failing financial institutions. The world won't end.

    There are 2 theorems to the Austrian School of Economics that are accepted in countries with successful financial systems:

    1). Don't artificially manipulate interest rates. When interest rates are high people save; when they're low people spend. Let interest rates fluctuate on their own.

    2). Don't bail out failing institutions. Let them fail. It gets rid of bad management.

    Why are we manipulating interest rates and bailing out companies in this country? Is that why we're in the mess we're in?

    April 14, 2010 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  13. JK Ashburn, VA

    Great picture of Dud, I mean Dodd. If it were a full body shot, he would be holding a sign with his prison number on it.

    April 14, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  14. Dano

    Of course the GOP is against financial regulations: a large chunk of their campaign contributions come from Wall Street and the banking industry. The financial regulations enacted after the Great Depression prevented a recurrence for over 70 years, then in the late 1990's Republicans began a systematic assault on all restrictions on banking and finance and in less than 10 years we had the worst financial meltdown since...well you know. They said the industry could police itself, but greed took over and now we're all suffering through the near disaster caused by these crooks.

    April 14, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  15. A bill to stop corruption.

    Good job Mr.President.

    Let's make sure those banks never con anyone ever again.

    April 14, 2010 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  16. Marco V

    Here's another opportunity for the republicans to show their support for Wall Street vs the consumer's interest.

    April 14, 2010 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  17. Center Left

    Dear, President Obama. Please hold a Wall St Reform summit live. So, the Republicans can't hide behind talking points. What"s their plan? We the people need to see and hear who side their on. Thank you.

    April 14, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |