WASHINGTON The top Democrat and Republican on the U.S. Senate Banking Committee said on Wednesday they hoped to resolve their differences on financial regulatory reforms before the Senate reconvenes in January.
"For the last few weeks we, and other members of the Banking Committee, have been engaged in serious negotiations, with the goal of producing a bill that strengthens our regulatory structure and makes our economy more secure," Senators Christopher Dodd and Richard Shelby said in a joint statement.
"We have made meaningful progress and we hope to resolve the remaining issues before we reconvene in January," they said.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a far-reaching package of financial regulatory reforms on December 11. But progress has been much slower in the Senate, where the banking panel has yet to take up a bill.
Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat who chairs the Senate panel, unveiled a set of proposals on November 10, but the plan drew sharp criticism from Republicans. Shelby, a Texas Republican, said the draft bill needed a "complete rewrite."
In particular, Republicans have been critical of Dodd's proposal to set up a new agency to protect consumers of financial products -- a top Obama administration reform goal contained in the House bill.
In their statement on Wednesday, the two senators emphasized common ground, including agreement that consumer protections need to be strengthened. The statement, however, provided no details on how a consensus might be achieved.
Whatever bill the Senate might ultimately approve would need to be reconciled with legislation passed by the House before it could go to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.
The Senate is on track to adjourn for a holiday break on December 24 and plans to reconvene on January 19.
(Reporting by Tim Ahmann, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler)