Republicans more optimistic about bank bill compromise 

Two moderate Senate Republicans signaled that a bipartisan deal can be worked out with Democrats in order to pass a major financial regulation bill.

Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, met separately with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to discuss the Democratic bill to increase the regulation of banks and capital markets and create a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Snowe told reporters after the meeting that a deal could be just days away, while Collins was more cautious, saying it would take weeks to make enough changes to satisfy her.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is expected to try to bring the bill to the floor this week, but it will require 60 votes. Democrats control 59 votes and will need the help of at least one Republican, presumably Snowe or Collins, to beat back a GOP filibuster.

"I'm convinced that this can be worked out in a bipartisan bill that will greatly strengthen our financial system," Collins told the Washington Examiner.

But Collins, like other Republicans, is opposed to a provision in the bill that would create a $50 billion fund, paid for with bank taxes.

Collins said unless the fund is removed, in addition to some other changes, she will vote against bringing the bill to the floor this week. But she added, "I think all of these provisions are workable."

Senate banking committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., signaled he wants to keep the bailout fund in the bill, despite requests by the White House to remove it. Dodd said the fund protects taxpayers from having to foot the bill.

"Why shouldn't large financial institutions that have assets more than $50 billion have a prepayment so the taxpayers are not exposed if they end up in tough shape?" Dodd said.

The top Republican on the banking committee, Sen. Richard Shelby, of Alabama, said he met with Dodd on in an effort to work out a deal.

"We are closer than we ever were," on an agreement, Shelby said, but added if Reid attempts to bring the bill to the floor before a deal can be reached, no Republicans would vote for it.

"I believe that Republicans will hang together right now," Shelby said, adding that Snowe's end-of-the-week timetable, "would be pushing it."

Democratic leaders and the White House Monday continued to pressure Republicans to back the measure.

Senate Democratic leaders are trying to publicly persuade the GOP to go along, using a newly filed civil suit against Goldman Sachs as their weapon. The Securities and Exchange Commission Friday filed suit against the company, charging it with defrauding investors.

While the White House refuted Republican accusations that the lawsuit was politically timed, Democrats Monday repeatedly made mention of the suit to bolster their case for the legislation.

Geithner, meanwhile, is working his way down the list of GOP moderates. He called Sen. George Voinovich for a meeting.

"He wants to meet with me and I'm willing to meet with him," Voinovich said, adding that if the bill comes to the floor in its current form, he would vote against it, "and try to get a bipartisan piece of legislation."

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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