Obama warns that he'll fight on behalf Dodd's financial proposals
By Michael D. Shear
Even as his health care fight appeared to be nearing a conclusion, President Obama hailed the opening of another war on Saturday -- the beginning of congressional hearings on a revamping of financial regulation.
Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd plans to open those hearings Monday in the Banking Committee he chairs, despite intense opposition from big banks, Republicans and an army of financial-services lobbyists.
Speaking in his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama warned that he will use "every tool at my disposal" to enact the kinds of reforms that Dodd has included in his draft legislation.
"The allies of banks and consumer finance companies launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign to fight against the proposal. You might call this 'air support' for the army of lobbyists already arm-twisting members of the committee to reject these reforms and block this consumer agency," Obama said. "Perhaps that's why, after months of working with Democrats, Republicans walked away from this proposal. I regret that and urge them to reconsider."
The financial-services fight has some of the same features as the president's now-concluding effort on health care. The proposals -- including the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency -- would rewrite the rules of a huge sector of the economy, prompting much controversy.
But White House officials are eager to begin the battle, believing that public opinion will be firmly on their side.
Democrats hope to cast Republican opponents of the financial measures as too-close friends of financial institutions that helped cause the nation's economic collapse.
"Large banks engaged in reckless financial speculation without regard for the consequences -- and without tough oversight," Obama said. "Financial firms invented and sold complicated financial products to escape scrutiny and conceal enormous risks. And there were some who engaged in the rampant exploitation of consumers to turn a quick profit no matter who was hurt in the process."
There are some risks for Democrats and the White House. Some conservatives have been eager to portray Obama as a socialist whose attempts at government intervention in the economy will do more harm than good.
In his weekly address, Obama sought to confront that charge head-on, saying, "I have long been a vigorous defender of free markets. And I believe we need a strong and vibrant financial sector so that businesses can get loans; families can afford mortgages; entrepreneurs can find the capital to start a new company, sell a new product, offer a new service."
With health care done soon -- one way or the other -- both sides are sure to turn up the heat, each one trying to make sure that their narrative for the other sinks in with the public.
Michael D. Shear
March 20, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency
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