Financial Regulatory Overhaul Passes House

BY Carolyn O'Hara  December 11, 2009 at 3:10 PM EDT

In a vote of 223-202, the House passed sweeping changes Friday afternoon to the way the financial system is regulated, with the creation of a new consumer watchdog agency, new authority for the Fed to police financial firms, and a new council to identify too-big-to-fail firms, as well as a process to break them apart.

The enormous bill, what many are calling the most significant financial regulation passed by Congress since the Great Depression and certainly since the financial crisis, contains a laundry list of reforms, including:

  • Creating a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency to regulate consumer lending;

  • Endowing “dissolution authority” to the federal government to break apart large, failing financial institutions, as well as the creation of a $150 billion fund, paid into by financial firms, to pay for the costs of the dissolutions;

  • Establishing a council of regulators to police the financial system for systemic risks and identify too-big-to-fail firms;

  • Providing oversight for the over-the-counter derivatives market, estimated to be worth around $600 trillion.

No Republicans voted for the package, and they were joined by 27 Democratic members in voting ‘no.’ House members considered more than two dozen amendments before voting, and among those items that failed to pass:

  • An amendment that would have given bankruptcy judges the power to alter the terms of mortgages for homeowners in bankruptcy court. A number of Democrats and housing advocates have said that changing the bankruptcy law is the only way to alleviate the nation’s foreclosure problem;

  • An effort to allow states to pass their own tough regulations for consumer protections; federal laws will continue to preempt those set by states.

The bill is expected to face a steep hill in the Senate, which in the process of marking up its own attempt at financial regulation.