A wide assault on a plan by Democrats to overhaul U.S. financial regulation is planned by Republicans for Monday as a Senate panel begins drafting a much-disputed bill, documents obtained by Reuters show.
About 300 amendments from Republicans will seek to weaken or kill key provisions of legislation that was unveiled on March 15, after months of informal negotiation, by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, a Democrat.
Targeted for watering down by Republicans are a proposed inter-agency council to monitor financial system risk, a fund for liquidating distressed firms, and a plan to shift oversight of hundreds of small banks out of the Federal Reserve.
While Republicans are certain to adjust their plans, the documents suggest Dodd may be hard-pressed to complete debate and bring the bill to a final vote this week as he hopes.
With the Senate set to adjourn on Friday for two weeks, the chance of further delay looms on an issue that Congress still has not dealt with two years since the near-collapse of Bear Stearns ushered in the worst financial crisis in decades.
Preventing another crisis is the goal of the legislation proposed by Dodd, a similar Democratic bill approved in December by the House of Representatives, and a raft of reforms proposed in mid-2009 by President Barack Obama.
In the months since Obama began pushing for financial reform, Republicans have consistently sided with lobbyists for the banks and Wall Street to oppose and delay new rules despite polls showing the financial sector is deeply unpopular.
That still appears to be the Republicans' basic strategy as they head into a banking committee bill-drafting session that could result, if Dodd senses he is running out of time, with a Democratic bill being rammed through on a party-line vote.
That would send the bill to the full Senate. Democrats are likely to be newly energized by progress on healthcare reform, but they would lack the votes necessary to easily overcome procedural roadblocks from Senate Republicans.
Some analysts doubt that Democrats can get a bill through the Senate, while others still see a good chance of it, despite disagreement on fundamental reform issues, many of which are also being debated in the European Union.
Republicans plan to offer amendments to strip Dodd's proposed Financial Stability Oversight Council of the power to assign risky nonbank financial firms to Fed supervision, according to documents summarizing more than 400 amendments.
A spokesman for committee Republicans could not immediately be reached for comment.
In another example, one Republican amendment would delete a provision in Dodd's bill establishing a fund to help pay for orderly liquidations of distressed financial firms, which is meant to prevent more AIG-style bailouts.
Republicans also want to amend Dodd's bill to block his plan to transfer supervision of hundreds of state-chartered banks with assets of less than $50 billion to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp from the Fed, the documents show.
The summary says Republicans want to delete major portions of the Dodd bill dealing with over-the-counter derivatives regulation and new rules for credit-rating agencies, while referring to unspecified Republican substitute plans.
The summary says that Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the committee, alone plans 110 amendments, more than any lawmaker, followed by Sen. Bob Corker with 98.
It says 12 Democrats plan to offer 94 amendments.
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