Key Players in Wall Street Reform Fight

Friday, May 21, 2010  |  Updated 3:30 PM PDT
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Key Players in Wall Street Reform Fight

The broadest overhaul of financial regulations since the 1930s is entering the final stage on Capitol Hill now that both the House and the Senate have passed legislation.

Lawmakers from both chambers will be named to a conference committee to hammer out a compromise bill.

Democrats, who control both chambers of Congress, will likewise hold a majority on the negotiating committee.

Representative Barney Frank, who is overseeing the effort in the House, and his Senate counterpart Christopher Dodd have said they expect to produce a final bill by July 4 that President Barack Obama can sign into law.

Following are snapshots of key players in the struggle over tightening bank and capital market rules:

Christopher Dodd, Senate Banking Committee Chairman

The silver-tongued, snowy-haired Connecticut Democrat caps his legislative career with a big victory after shepherding the bill through the minefield of the Senate, book-ending his role in passing healthcare reform.

The battle is not yet over, however, as he now has to help forge a compromise bill that can win support in both the House and Senate.

The son of a senator, Dodd, 66, first won election to the House of Representatives in 1974.

He moved to the Senate in 1980 and was reelected four times.

The past two years have been tough, however, as he has had to answer questions about a sweetheart mortgage deal and whether he neglected his Senate duties while he pursued a presidential bid.

He decided not to seek reelection in January.

Barney Frank, House Financial Services Committee Chairman

The Massachusetts Democrat last year emerged as the House's chief architect of Wall Street reform and a key ally of President Barack Obama, who has made an overhaul of financial rules a top administration priority.

 

Frank's short temper and sharp tongue win him few friends on Capitol Hill, but he is both widely feared and respected for his ability as a lawyer, legislator and debater.

He pushed a bill through the House in December that achieved much of the administration's original reform agenda.

Frank, 70, will play a central part in merging his bill with the Senate version.

He has said the two are more alike than different and is looking to push for a quick agreement.

Richard Shelby, Senate Banking Committee's Top Republican

The patient, cool-headed senior senator from Alabama—often the tallest man in the room—held immense sway over the reform debate, but his efforts to weaken the bill largely failed amid widespread public support for tougher regulations.

In the end, he voted against the legislation.

While he will likely be named to the conference committee, Shelby's influence is diminished given his opposition to the bills on the table.

A lawyer with a distinctive Southern drawl, Shelby, 76, was first elected to the House in 1978 as a Democrat.

He moved to the Senate in 1986 and switched parties in 1994.

Blanche Lincoln, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman

The senior senator from Arkansas, Lincoln added a hard-hitting measure that would require banks to separate their swap-trading desks from their core businesses.

Dodd tried to kill her swaps provision, but then backed off after Lincoln vowed she would fight to defend it.

Lincoln, 49, is facing a tough reelection challenge from the left and will be eager to show voters she is tough on Wall Street ahead of the June 8 runoff election.

If she is named to the conference committee, look for her to push hard to make sure her provision—a main target for financial industry lobbyists—is in the final bill.

A self-styled "farmer's daughter" and former House aide, she was elected to the House in 1992 and the Senate in 1998.

Collin Person, House Agriculture Committee Chairman

A straight-talking Minnesotan, Peterson moved quickly on legislation to regulate over-the-counter derivatives.

His committee approved a bill that requires standardized swaps to go through clearinghouses in most cases.

Transactions that involve "end users," such as manufacturers, processors, utilities and airlines, would be exempt from clearing.

Peterson is a skeptic of the Federal Reserve as a regulator and says there should be no bailouts of clearinghouses.

He supported the exemption for end users with the argument they did not cause the 2008 financial crisis.

Harry Reid, Senate Democratic Leader

Facing a tough reelection challenge at home in Nevada, Reid, 70, has nevertheless prodded the Senate to pass top Obama priorities such as the Wall Street bill, a massive economic stimulus package and landmark healthcare legislation.

When the conference bill is completed, Reid will once again have to ensure that it has enough support to pass the Senate.

A former boxer and Capitol Police officer, Reid practiced law in his home state before winning election to the state assembly and then becoming lieutenant governor.

He was elected to the House in 1982 and the Senate in 1986.

Mitch McConnell, Senate Republican Leader

The patrician senior senator from Kentucky is widely admired for his tactical skill and mastery of Senate procedure.

Though he has not managed to defeat top Democratic initiatives, his ability to keep Republicans united in opposition has slowed their progress and ratcheted up their political cost.

Expect McConnell to lead opposition to the conference bill when it comes back to the Senate for approval.

McConnell, 68, is a career politician and lawyer.

He recently suffered a stinging defeat in his home state when his favored candidate to join him in the Senate lost in the Republican primary to a Tea Party outsider, Rand Paul.

President Barack Obama

The charismatic U.S. president wants to rein in the financial sector and end decades of deregulation, rising banker bonuses and reckless Wall Street risk-taking blamed for the 2008-09 financial crisis that rocked economies worldwide.

Obama, 48, unveiled a comprehensive set of reform proposals in mid-2009 and administration officials have been active on Capitol Hill during the legislative process.

Administration officials will continue to work behind the scenes to broker a compromise and Obama himself could continue to weigh in publicly to keep up pressure.

Paul Volcker, White House Economic Adviser

At 82, the former Federal Reserve chairman is a legend in his own time.

Known for vanquishing stagflation during the Carter and Reagan administrations, the 6-foot-7-inch Volcker commands deep bipartisan respect in financial circles.

Obama brought Volcker into the White House as an economic adviser.

The two stunned markets in January with a three-part proposal to limit banks' proprietary trading, get them out of the hedge fund business and limit their future growth.

The proposals became known as "the Volcker rule," and were included in the Senate bill.

They could be toughened further during negotiations between the two chambers.

Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve Chairman

The stoic, bearded U.S. central bank chief survived sharp criticism in January of the Fed's failures ahead of the crisis, and won Senate confirmation to a second four-year term.

Since then, the 56-year-old former Princeton University professor has had much success in restoring the Fed's image in Congress, fending off efforts to strip its bank supervision and consumer protection authorities.

Fed officials will likely continue to play a behind-the-scenes role as negotiations move forward.

In particular, they would like lawmakers to drop a House provision that would open up monetary policy decisions to audits, in favor of a milder audit plan contained in the Senate bill.

Timonthy Geithner, Treasury Secretary

As President Obama's point man on financial reform, the youthful-looking Treasury secretary dominated the headlines from early to mid-2009, but Congress is now center stage.

Still, Geithner, 48, and his deputies at Treasury are important emissaries for Obama in helping to push a deal.

Once the reform bill is signed into law by Obama, Geithner, and other regulators will play key roles in implementing it.

Sheila Bair, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp Chariiman

Popular in Congress, the outspoken, unflappable FDIC chairman is an advocate for tough financial reform and a fierce defender of her agency's turf as a bank supervisor.

She is a self-described moderate Republican, appointed by Bush. Her term expires in 2011.

Like Bernanke, Bair, 56, was formerly an academic, having also worked at the Treasury Department, the New York Stock Exchange and on Capitol Hill.

Gary Gensler, Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman

A former Treasury undersecretary, Gensler, 51, has tried to push Congress, with limited success, toward a firm crackdown on the $615 trillion over-the-counter derivatives market that includes compulsory clearing of over-the-counter derivative contracts.

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