What reform could dramatically remake America and become law by Christmas? Not health care. While a health care bill crawls through the Senate, bills of equal significance are speeding through the Banking and Finance Committees of both chambers of Congress and will share the spotlight this week on Capitol Hill. And because of the odd politics of finance, and an aggressive behind the scenes push by the Administration, real financial reforms have a better chance of becoming law by the end of the year than an overhaul of health care.
That doesn’t mean the process is any less messy. There are currently three versions of financial reform in play. The Obama Administration unveiled its plan in mid-June. Barney Frank, the House Financial Services chairman, brings his recently unveiled version to markup in committee as early as this week. Frank and the Administration, represented by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, spent weeks in negotiation and Frank’s bill closely tracks the Administration proposal.
Chris Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, will unveil the third version of financial-system reform as early as Tuesday. Dodd, who faces a tough re-election battle in Connecticut in 2010, told his staff that the proposal put forward by the Administration didn’t take into account the possibilities opened up by the enormous financial crisis of the last year. For political or policy reasons or both his bill is more aggressive on federal-oversight authority on a number of potentially controversial issues. “We should push for the biggest changes we can get,” says Dodd’s spokesperson, Kirstin Brost.