Monday, March 22, 2010

What is next for Obama? Go After the Banks

President Barack Obama is clearly eager to maintain momentum after US lawmakers passed his cornerstone overhaul of healthcare on Sunday. He still faces a stack of pressing domestic issues, but it seems his next target are American banks.

Obama, in a clear signal financial reform could be the next priority after healthcare passed, used his weekly address on Saturday to urge support for laws cracking down on Wall Street excess that would eat into banking profits.

On Monday, Senator Chris Dodd will lead a vote in the Senate Banking Committee over a package of measures he has crafted to prevent a repeat of mistakes that triggered the 2008 financial crisis. Republicans oppose crucial elements of the measures, allowing the White House to portray them as sticking up for rich bankers at the expense of ordinary Americans.

Dodd has enough votes without Republican support to move the bill out of committee and onto the floor of the Senate. Debate could begin after its two week Easter break. The House of Representatives passed its own bill three months ago.

Obama wants a strong consumer financial protection agency to prevent banks from luring customers into risky products they don't understand and action to prevent leading firms from getting too big to fail. Obama has also called for a tax on big banks to repay the multibillion dollar bailout they got at the height of the crisis, and a rule barring them from risky trading named after White House adviser Paul Volcker. The White House says he expects to sign a financial reform bill in 2010.

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