May 12 As the U.S. Senate moves closer to a final vote on Wall Street reform, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd is spending long hours on the Senate floor trying to rally support for his bill.
A series of decisive votes on amendments, preceded by substantive debates, has resulted in an unusual display of effective legislating by a chamber more accustomed in recent months to partisan bickering and procedural gridlock.
Party leaders -- Democrat Harry Reid and Republican Mitch McConnell -- have been instrumental in setting the stage for the Senate's steady, if slow, progress on the issue. Approval of a bill is expected by analysts, possibly next week.
The following are snapshots of key players in the struggle over tightening bank and capital market rules:
CHRISTOPHER DODD, SENATE BANKING COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN
The silver-tongued, snowy-haired Connecticut Democrat is managing the bill, shuttling between the Senate floor and private offices on Capitol Hill for meetings with colleagues clamoring for attention for nearly 200 amendments.
The son of a senator, Dodd, 65, first won election to the House of Representatives in 1974. He went to the Senate in 1980 and was reelected four times. The past two years were tough, however, and in January he said he would not seek reelection.
Dodd's bold plan, unveiled late last year, to make sense of the jigsaw-puzzle U.S. banking supervision system has been eroded through compromises and amendments.
But if he can get the rest of his sprawling Wall Street reform bill through the deeply fractured Senate, he will notch a major achievement as he heads into retirement, book-ending his key role in passing healthcare reform.
HARRY REID, SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER
Facing a tough reelection challenge at home in Nevada, Reid, 70, is pushing hard for passage of President Barack Obama's and the Democrats' bill on financial reform.
A former boxer and Capitol Police officer, Reid practiced law in his home state before winning election to the state assembly and then becoming lieutenant governor. He was elected to the House in 1982 and the Senate in 1986.
He overcame a Republican attempt to block debate on Wall Street reform, threatening to keep the Senate in session all night long. As aides said cots were being brought in for senators to sleep on, the Republicans backed down.
MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE REPUBLICAN LEADER
The patrician senior senator from Kentucky is a career politician and lawyer, having worked as an aide on Capitol Hill before becoming a judge and then a senator in 1984.
Like Reid, he was not deeply involved in financial reform until it appeared on the leadership's radar screen recently.
McConnell, 68, has spoken out against the Democrats' reform bill. He initially tried to block debate on it through a series of procedural maneuvers, but then abandoned that strategy, clearing the way for the present debate to get under way.
RICHARD SHELBY, SENATE BANKING COMMITTEE'S TOP REPUBLICAN
The patient, cool-headed senior senator from Alabama -- often the tallest man in the room -- holds immense sway over the financial reform debate.
A lawyer with a distinctive Southern drawl, Shelby, 75, was first elected to the House in 1978, as a Democrat. He moved to the Senate in 1986 and switched parties in 1994.
He successfully pressured Democrats to drop a proposed $50-billion orderly liquidation fund to pay for dismantling large financial firms in distress., However, an amendment he offered to weaken a proposed consumer watchdog was defeated.
BOB CORKER, REPUBLICAN MEMBER OF SENATE BANKING COMMITTEE
The junior senator from Tennessee is a multimillionaire commercial developer and construction company owner who was mayor of Chattanooga. He was elected to the Senate in 2006.
In his brief career on Capitol Hill, Corker, 57, a quick-witted businessman with an Appalachian twang in his Southern accent, has become a fundraising powerhouse.
The Senate rejected an amendment he offered to try to kill a Democratic proposal calling for securitizers to shoulder more of the risk from complex debt securities that they create.
BLANCHE LINCOLN, SENATE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN
The senior senator from Arkansas, Lincoln attached to the bill a hard-hitting measure that would require banks to separate their swap-trading units from their core businesses.
Lincoln, 49, is a self-styled "farmer's daughter," and a former House aide. She was elected to the House in 1992 and the Senate in 1998. She faces a tough reelection challenge.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT
The charismatic U.S. president wants to rein in the financial sector and end decades of deregulation, rising banker bonuses and reckless Wall Street risk-taking blamed for the 2008-2009 financial crisis that rocked economies worldwide.
Since unveiling a comprehensive set of reform proposals in mid-2009, he has waited for months for Congress to act.
BARNEY FRANK, HOUSE FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN
Among the slick bankers he deals with daily, the thorny Massachusetts Democrat last year emerged as chief architect in the House of Wall Street reform and a key Obama ally.
Frank's short temper and sharp tongue win him few friends on Capitol Hill, but he is both widely feared and respected for his ability as a lawyer, legislator and debater.
He pushed a bill through the House in December that achieved much of the administration's original reform agenda.
If Dodd can get a bill passed in the Senate, Frank, 70, will play a central part in conference negotiations.
PAUL VOLCKER, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER
At 82, the former Federal Reserve chairman is a legend in his own time. Known for vanquishing stagflation during the Carter and Reagan administrations, the 6-foot-7-inch Volcker commands deep bipartisan respect in financial circles.
Obama brought Volcker into the White House as an economic adviser. The two stunned markets in January with a three-part proposal to limit banks' proprietary trading, get them out of the hedge fund business and limit their future growth.
The proposals became known as "the Volcker rule," and Congress is still figuring out what to do about it.
BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN
The stoic, bearded U.S. central bank chief survived sharp criticism in January of the Fed's failures ahead of the crisis, and won Senate confirmation to a second, four-year term.
Since then, he has had much success in restoring the Fed's image in Congress, where proposals to strip away its bank supervision and consumer protection jobs are fading.
Under Bernanke, a 56-year-old former Princeton University economics professor, the Fed has devoted hundreds of billions of dollars to propping up banks and the housing market.
TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY
As President Obama's point man on financial reform, the youthful-looking Treasury secretary dominated the headlines from early to mid-2009, but Congress is now center stage.
LAWRENCE SUMMERS, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL DIRECTOR
A former Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, Summers, 55, works closely with Geithner on reforms, mostly behind the scenes. Summers has a reputation for brilliance as an economist as well as for not suffering fools gladly.