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Dodd's Bill Has Teeth; Will Congress Bite?

Stocks in this article: BAC C WFC JPM

Additionally, the bill will ensure that regulators have the authority to limit banks' risk-taking activities, although it won't include the Obama administration's proposed "Volcker rule." That proposal -- which didn't have widespread support in either party -- would force large banks to halt capital markets activities entirely. The bill will also reportedly allow regulators to oversee the activity of any firms that can sway the market, whether bank, insurer, hedge fund or otherwise.

But once Dodd's proposal is officially released on Monday, it's sure to get immediate pushback -- not just from Republicans, but the banks it seeks to rein in. That's especially true for large firms like Bank of America (BAC), Citigroup (C), Wells Fargo (WFC), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Goldman Sachs (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS), which are likely to face the highest costs and biggest changes under the proposal.

A preliminary indication of opposition could be seen on Friday, when the Banking Committee's 10 Republicans sent a letter to Dodd complaining about the timing of his bill, and suggesting it was put together too hastily. The banking industry's feeling toward reform might best be summed up in a comment from Edward Yingling, who heads the American Bankers Association. When asked how he felt about housing the consumer protection agency within the Fed, Yingling told the New York Times last week: "We don't care where you put it...We're totally against it."

It's been over a year since the Obama administration first unveiled its proposal for financial regulatory reform. It's been nearly as long since Congress first took up the issue, and a few months since the House passed its own version. It's been several weeks of heated debate and tension, with compromise after compromise yielding no results.

Democrats' morale has been depleted for some time, and with good reason: The health-care debacle; a stunning defeat in Massachusetts by Republican underdog Scott Brown; the Paterson and Massa scandals; and the dramatic departures of legislators who say they are tired of partisan bickering. But now that Dodd has flaunted an independent streak to put a comprehensive bill on the table, it's time for the rest of Congress to show whether they've got the mettle to pass meaningful reform.

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