Snowe signs on to financial reform package, providing 60th vote

Posted July 12, 2010, at 10:37 p.m.
Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, speaks to reporters after a crucial test vote for the financial reform bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, April 26, 2010. Senate Republicans have blocked Democrats' efforts to begin debate on overhauling the nation's financial regulatory system. The vote was the first Senate showdown on the sweeping legislation. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
AP
Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, speaks to reporters after a crucial test vote for the financial reform bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, April 26, 2010. Senate Republicans have blocked Democrats' efforts to begin debate on overhauling the nation's financial regulatory system. The vote was the first Senate showdown on the sweeping legislation. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

AUGUSTA, Maine — Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, signaled Monday evening that she would support a compromise financial reform bill making its way through Congress, ending weeks of speculation and likely delivering the final vote needed for Senate passage.

All eyes in Washington, D.C., once again had focused on Snowe after her Republican colleague, freshman Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, announced earlier Monday he would cast his vote in support of the sweeping financial reform bill.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine had said last month that she would support the bill.

“After thoroughly reviewing the 2,315-page financial regulatory reform conference bill during the July 4 work period, I intend to support passage of the legislation when it’s brought before the Senate for consideration,” Snowe said in a statement, adding that key concessions she had sought made the difference.

“While not perfect, the legislation takes necessary steps to implement meaningful regulatory reforms, create strong consumer protections, and restore confidence in the American financial system,” Snowe said.

Snowe’s support means that once again Maine’s two Republican senators likely will have broken with the majority of their party and provided the key votes necessary to pass major initiatives sought by the Obama administration.

Although Snowe and Collins’ support for the bill is likely to anger some Republicans and ardent critics of the measure, it is unclear how their votes will be received back home among Maine’s more moderate electorate.

The legislation attempts to rein in banks, police previously unregulated markets and provide a new array of consumer protections. It aims to avoid a recurrence of the 2008 financial crisis that helped drive the country into the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Among the bill’s major provisions:

ä Creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau within the Federal Reserve to police lending.

ä Requiring the largest banks to have substantial reserves in order to avoid future bank bailouts or a repeat of “too big to fail” scenarios.

ä Requiring that most derivatives trading occur on regulated exchanges.

ä Requiring lenders to prove that borrowers can pay for a new mortgage.

ä Creation of a new, 10-member Financial Services Oversight Council to monitor financial markets, identify potential threats and take regulatory actions to address threats, including requiring tougher regulations or breaking up large firms.

In her statement, Snowe said the House-Senate compromise addressed some of her concerns by incorporating her suggested changes “designed to temper onerous bank regulations and improve access to credit for small businesses.”

Collins likewise had sought significant changes to the bill and said the compromise strengthened financial regulations and added oversight without burdening small businesses.

“While the bill is not what I would have written and contains some provisions that I oppose, on balance I believe that it will lead to stronger financial institutions, curb the abuses that led to the near collapse of our financial markets, and improve financial oversight by creating a council of regulators to identify products, practices, and financial institutions that pose a systemic risk to our economy,” Collins said in announcing her support for the bill late last month.

The support of Collins, Snowe and Brown appears to give Democrats the 60 votes needed to get the bill out of the Senate. Otherwise, Democrats would have been forced to wait for West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, to fill the vacancy created by the death of Sen. Robert Byrd.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada hopes to finish the bill by the end of the week, his spokesman, Jim Manley, said late Monday. The House already has passed the bill.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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