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.