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Update on the FinReg Conference

June 9, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The financial reform conference committee kicks off tomorrow. This is where negotiators from the Senate and the House meet to iron out the differences between their versions of the bill and create a final text to be voted on one more time by both chambers.

Though the two versions of the bill are broadly similar (House version, Senate version), when looked at more closely there are dozens of hugely important details that will need to be resolved. For example, will the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency be independent, or will it be housed at the Fed and subject to Fed vetoes? Will there be a pre-funded orderly liquidation fund, or will the funds necessary for liquidating failing big banks be put up by the federal government when the time comes? Will banks be allowed to continue getting government backing for their derivatives trades, or will they be required to spin their derivatives activites off into separate entities without access to the Fed’s discount window and FDIC guarantees? 

These look like small issues within this big bill, but each of them will have huge implications and we’ll be looking at them in more detail as the conference proceeds. For now, here’s a look at what we know about what the conference will look like and how it will operate.

The final list of conferees will be confirmed today. We already know who will be serving from the Senate side. The House may be represented by up to 25 conferees, though it will be up to House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-8] to make that decision.

Here’s the basic timeline, via Politico:

Both chairmen said they expect the formal conference process to begin Thursday and that the conferees will meet Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week. The conference committee then will reconvene the following Tuesday and “then go until Saturday, if that’s necessary,” Frank said.

Dodd and Frank hope that by wrapping up the bill on or before June 26, the House and the Senate can consider the final markup of the bill in the last week of June—the final days of the current work period—and President Barack Obama can sign the bill into law before July 4.

As for the working process, the conference committee will use the Senate version as the base text and all changes in the direction of the House’s version will be offered up as amendments. Most likely, that will include a vote on an omnibus “manager’s amendment” containing many of the House Democrats’ priorities for the final bill. This will be assembled and offered by House Financial Services Chairman Rep. Barney Frank [D, MA-4] and will likely be made public next week.

Unlink most conference committees, every single meeting of this conference will be televised on C-SPAN. This is important, but what is even more important from the transparency/accountability perspective is that all amendments are posted online for at least 72 hours before they are voted on. This will give the public a chance to weigh in and do what they can to counteract the thousands of bank lobbyists who are working full time to weaken the final bill. Progressive groups have been working on getting this kind of commitment from the conference committee members, but so far there is no firm commitment.

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