Washington (CNN) - A Senate committee began debate Wednesday on another piece of legislation aimed at protecting the economy from future meltdowns and taxpayers from more Wall Street bailouts.
The measure before the Senate Agricultural Committee would impose regulations on the complex system of Wall Street trades known as derivatives. It would be merged with a financial regulations reform measure already passed by the Senate Banking Committee that is headed for debate by the full chamber.
While Wednesday's hearing was but one step in the legislative process, it could provide part of the framework for a congressional deal on financial reform legislation - a major priority of the Obama administration.
Republican senators who last week expressed unanimous opposition to the Banking Committee's bill now, after continued negotiations, say a compromise is possible.
"Both sides have expressed a willingness to make the changes needed to ensure without any doubt that this bill won't put taxpayers on the hook for future bailouts of Wall Street banks," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Tuesday. "I'm heartened to hear that bipartisan talks have resumed in earnest."
The committee chair, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Arkansas, opened the hearing by saying the legislation would confront "tough problems" in trying to increase regulation of Wall Street trading.
Lincoln, a moderate Democrat who is expected to face a tough re-election campaign this year, called the proposal "a robust package that balances the needs of strong, meaningful reform and recognizes the needs of these markets."
"This bill will bring 100 percent transparency to a currently unregulated, dark market," she said.
The House has passed its version of a finance reform bill, and now Democrats seek to bring a Senate version up for chamber debate.
The bill approved by Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee would set up new regulatory oversight of financial industry practices with the goal of preventing another Wall Street meltdown like the one in 2008 that launched the U.S. recession.
It includes an "early warning" system intended to spot signs of another crisis, as well as a $50 billion liquidation fund created with money from banks and other finance industry corporations to ensure an orderly transition in closing down failing entities.