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GOP senators’ support assures passage of financial reform bill

Two key senators’ support Monday for the sweeping overhaul of financial regulations gave Democratic leaders the votes they need for final approval this week, paving the way for President Obama to sign the landmark legislation into law.

Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, among a handful of Republicans who voted for the Senate’s version of the legislation, said they would vote for the bill.

They had balked last month at revisions made by a joint House-Senate conference committee to fund the bill’s $19-billion cost over the next 10 years. But the conference committee reconvened late last month to make changes to satisfy him.

Their backing gives supporters the 60 votes needed to avoid a Republican-led filibuster. Democratic leaders were in the same position in May when they scraped together the needed votes to stem a filibuster and approve the Senate version of the bill.

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Late Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the Senate would hold a vote this week on the financial reform bill, the top legislative priority of President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders.

The House approved the conference committee’s final version June 30 in a vote split largely along partisan lines.

But last month’s death of Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), a solid vote for the legislation, left Democratic leaders recounting their votes as West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III and state officials deliberated over a temporary appointment and special elections.

Manchin said Monday that he would probably name a replacement this weekend.

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Brown said Monday that he had analyzed the final bill during the recess and decided to back it.

“While it’s certainly not a perfect bill, it goes a good measure to make sure that we don’t have the same type of problems that we had before,” Brown said. “A lot of folks say we shouldn’t do anything. Well, I disagree. I think we should do something.”

Snowe said Monday night that having reviewed the legislation, she also supports it.

The legislation would establish a bureau within the Federal Reserve to protect consumers in the financial marketplace, impose tough regulations on complex financial derivatives, and give the government authority to seize and dismantle teetering firms whose failure could cause an economic collapse.

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Democratic leaders were worried that Brown, Snowe and Susan Collins (R-Maine) might be uncomfortable providing the final votes that clear the way for passage. The leaders were considering waiting for Byrd’s successor, who could arrive next week.

Manchin, a Democrat, almost certainly will appoint a fellow Democrat to fill the seat, and that person probably would vote for the financial reform legislation.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Brown’s announcement was “good progress” toward getting the legislation approved. Passing the bill was “first and foremost” on Obama’s agenda, Gibbs said.

“That will be a big push of this president and a big push of this administration, to get that done,” Gibbs said.

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Heather Booth, director of Americans for Financial Reform, a coalition of labor, consumer, civil rights and liberal activist groups supporting the legislation, said Brown’s decision was an important step. But her group is trying to keep the pressure on key senators.

“It’s never over until it’s over,” she said.

Although Byrd’s seat remains vacant, supporters picked up a vote when Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said July 1 that she would vote for the final bill. Her vote would make up for Byrd’s, assuming all the other senators vote as they did in May.

Cantwell was one of two Democrats to oppose the legislation in May because she believed it would not do enough to rein in the use of complex financial securities known as derivatives.

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Cantwell said she was satisfied with changes made by the conference committee, as well as assurances by the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission about how regulations of derivatives would be implemented.

Collins has said she will support the bill. Collins, Snowe and Brown all voted in May to block the filibuster and to approve the legislation.

Another Republican, Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, voted for the Senate version of the legislation once the procedural hurdle was overcome. But he did not vote to stop the filibuster. He has not said how he will vote this time.

jim.puzzanghera@latimes.com

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Lisa Mascaro in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.


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