WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will hold a meeting with congressional Republicans and Democrats on Wednesday to discuss proposals to overhaul financial regulation, a White House official said on Friday.
“Enacting financial reform has been a goal of President Obama’s since well before taking office, and he will discuss the choice he sees in this debate — whether to stand with the American people or stand on the side of the status quo,” the official said.
Obama has made passage of financial regulatory reform legislation a high priority after achieving his top domestic policy goal of overhauling the U.S. healthcare system.
“We believe momentum is on the side of real reform for the American people and consumers,” the official said, noting that the president had called during his State of the Union address for regular meetings with bipartisan members of Congress.
Obama proposed a series of changes to the rules that govern the financial industry in mid-2009. The House of Representatives approved most of them in December, but the Senate has yet to act, with many Republicans and lobbyists for banks and Wall Street fighting to block reforms.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, a Democrat, has said he hopes his bill on the matter will be debated on the Senate floor later this month.
Dodd says his bill ends the idea that some financial firms are ‘too big to fail,’ creates a strong consumer protection watchdog and addresses problems in the over-the-counter derivative markets, credit rating agencies and debt securitization, among other issues.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans would likely be able to find common ground with Democrats on the issue of ‘too big to fail’ financial institutions.
“On financial reform, to the extent that we can target it at ‘too big to fail,’ I think we can potentially get an agreement,” McConnell said, according to a spokesman.
Obama held a bipartisan meeting on healthcare earlier this year after an election in Massachusetts took away Democrats’ “supermajority” in the Senate, which was seen at the time as a potentially deadly blow to the president’s signature issue.
The summit did not create bipartisan support for the bill, which was passed later without a single Republican vote, but it succeeded in bringing momentum back to Obama’s side.
The Wednesday meeting on financial regulation will follow a major international summit on nuclear proliferation that Obama will host in Washington at the beginning of the week.
Editing by Philip Barbara