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Congressional conference meets to reconcile financial reform bills

November 11, 2010

A conference committee formally began June 10 to merge the House and Senate versions of financial overhaul legislation, with 43 lawmakers from both parties and both houses of Congress.

The committee includes three House members from Illinois: Democrats Bobby Rush and Luis Gutierrez, both from Chicago; and Republican Judy Biggert from Hinsdale.

Three men were expected to wield disproportionate influence over Congress’s final push to write a new law for financial regulations that could impact auto dealers. According to the Wall Street Journal, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) have said that their experience with the financial crisis should serve as the foundation for what new regulations should look like.

As a result, people who know them say the three men were likely to show willingness to negotiate on parts of the bill they don’t view as core, while being intractable on pieces they view as elemental. That could mean agreeing to allow auto dealers to be exempt from new lending rules proposed in the Senate version of the legislation.

Advocates for dealers maintain that exempting dealers from the rules would be pro-consumer because it would keep finance options for car buyers affordable and accessible.

Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, had urged Frank to produce a consensus report by June 24, when President Obama is expected to leave for a Group of 20 meeting in Toronto. Frank has vowed to get a final bill to Obama’s desk before Independence Day, and he called June 24 a target, not a deadline.

The House bill contains Rep. John Campbell’s (R-Calif.) provision that excludes auto dealers from new oversight created by the legislation. Although a similar Senate amendment, introduced by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) was not voted on, the body did vote to instruct its conferees to support the House dealer exemption.

Under the House bill, a new consumer financial protection agency would stand alone. The Senate bill would put the agency within the Federal Reserve.