Economic Outlook: A debate point

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International  |  April 29, 2010 at 8:07 AM
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Let the debate begin, said Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, who has thrice seen Republicans turn down that offer.

After three votes to move the financial reform bill to formal debate on the Senate floor, Republicans relented Wednesdaysaying they felt there was no more they could do with private negotiations between Dodd and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., who worked through the bill in for months before it was pushed through the committee several weeks ago.

"It's time for this debate to begin. And it must be a serious, vigorous debate," Dodd said Wednesday, the New York Times reported.

But let not the news media or the occasional vitriolic sound bite convince anyone that it has not been a bipartisan effort all along. Republicans finally agreed to move the bill forward because Shelby was able to cross out the $50 billion fund large companies, many of them banks, would would have had to set aside to help the government dismantle them, if it comes to that, in the future. But President Obama -- he's a Democrat, after all -- did not like that provision, either.

Dodd may be listed as the lead author of the 1,400-page regulatory behemoth, but Shelby was certainly in the room for much of the time. So were other Republicans matched off in pairs with Democrats on the Banking Committee, including Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who took Shelby's place in a tag-team approach when Shelby felt he had reached an impasse with Dodd.

An impasse does not mean Republicans were not in agreement with large portions of the bill and the latest theatrics are, one could say, a serious debating strategy, one that says the minor tweaks Republicans still want are of serious concern to them.

In effect, the debating began long ago; it's just gotten more difficult recently, near the beginning of the end, as it always does.

It could be said that just one of the provisions of the enormous bill would be ripe for a contentious afternoon or two on the Senate floor. The bill is intended to give birth to a consumer financial protection agency, create a public exchange for the $6 trillion -- estimates vary -- derivatives market, and regulate hedge funds. The final version could mean oversight of payday lenders and give the government a mechanism for unwinding businesses too big to fail without burdening taxpayers. That's a mouthful for an election year.

On the other side of the Atlantic, fears over Greece's debt have abated for the moment since the International Monetary Fund agreed to bump the total loan package from about $60 billion to $160 billion, the Times reported.

Investors were looking for a shell-shocking package that sent the message the issue would be taken seriously, as the former deal only bought Greece less than a year's reprieve.

In international markets Thursday, the Nikkei 225 in Japan was closed for a holiday. The Shanghai composite index in China lost 1.1 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong lost 0.81 percent and the Sensex in India rose 0.71 percent.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.77 percent.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 in Britain rose 0.66 percent and the DAX 30 in Germany rose 0.5 percent. The CAC 40 in France rose 0.86 percent and the pan-European DJ Stoxx 50 added 0.75 percent.

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