(Reuters) - U.S. Senate leaders picked a dozen negotiators on Tuesday — seven Democrats and five Republicans — to hammer out a final bill to crack down on Wall Street.
These “conferees” will join members of the House of Representatives, likely to be named within the next two weeks, to form a bipartisan conference committee.
The panel will seek to merge and resolve differences between two competing bills, one passed by the Senate and one by the House, to implement the biggest overhaul of U.S. financial regulation since the 1930s.
With Democrats in control of Congress, they will control the conference committee, too. They hope to draft a final bill, get it passed by the full House and Senate and signed into law by President Barack Obama by their July 4 recess.
Here is how a conference committee works:
* Senate and House Republican and Democratic leaders name “conferees” to reconcile differences in legislation passed by their respective chambers. Traditionally, plenty of lawmakers like to be at the table for the high-stake deal-making.
Historically, the chairs and ranking minority member of key committees of jurisdiction are named, plus a few others.
* Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell selected the Senate conferees for the financial regulation bill.
Reid’s picks include Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, chief author of the Senate bill. Among those named by McConnell was Senator Richard Shelby, the top Republican on Dodd’s panel.
Reid also named Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln. She has drafted a tough provision on derivatives and will be joined on the conference committee by Senator Saxby Chambliss, the Agriculture Committee’s top Republican.
* House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, is expected to wait until after Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess on June 7 to name Democratic conferees from her chamber, aides said. She is busy this week with other matters, including a multibillion-dollar jobs bill and legislation to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There has been no formal word on when House Republican Leader John Boehner will name his conferees.
The overall number of House conferees and the ratio of Democrats to Republicans has also not been determined yet, but like the Senate, Democrats will get a majority.
* The chairmanship of conference committees rotates between the House and Senate. With it being the House’s turn, Democratic Representative Barney Frank, a stern Wall Street critic and key White House ally, is in line to head the panel, aides said.
Frank also chairs the House Financial Services Committee. As chief author of the House legislation, Frank can be expected to press for a tough crackdown on bank oversight, although the House bill is in some ways less hard-hitting than one approved by the Senate.
* Democrats and Republicans say they want an “open conference” so the public can watch as decisions are made, yet many decisions will likely be made in private.
Do not be surprised, however, to see the full — or at least most — of the conference committee before the TV cameras when the accord is formally announced.
* Once the conference comes up with a new bill, the House and Senate are not permitted to make any changes before voting on it. Republicans could try to raise procedural roadblocks that would take 60 votes to clear in the 100-member chamber. But with Democrats controlling 59 seats and polls showing public support for the bill, they seem certain to be able to handle any obstacles.
* While there is no guarantee that a conference committee will reach an agreement, Chris Krueger of Concept Capital, a private firm that tracks Washington for investors, said last week he’s confident it won’t fail on financial regulation.
“There is just too much momentum,” Krueger said.