Obama Proposes Financial Regulatory Overhaul, Create New Oversight Council

Regulatory Proposals Draw Praise, Criticism

Consumer groups and lawmakers who backed Obama hailed the president's proposal.

"It's about time we had a government agency whose only job was to protect consumers in the financial market place," said Travis Plunkett, legislative director for the Consumer Federation of America, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. "If such an agency existed five years ago, we might not be in the economic crisis we are in right now."

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said they are confident that the plan would be on the president's desk to sign by the end of the year.

"I am fairly optimistic that we're going to have a product that looks a lot like what the president wants on his desk by the end of the year," Frank told reporters. "Not every specific will come out the same way but I think the fundamental proposals the president is seeking to accomplish will be embodied by the end of the year."

The two congressmen said discussion on these proposals should begin in July, with all the pieces coming together in September.

But others are wary of the expanded powers of the government. Republicans on Capitol Hill say that with the president and lawmakers already bogged down with health care matters and the auto industry, there is too much being done, too quickly.

They point to the president's spending proposals, government ownership of private companies such as AIG and General Motors, the administration's push for a government-run health care plan to compete with private insurers, and ask if today's remedies are really the solution.

"These kinds of policies are going to work to slow down job growth and prevent private sector from growing," House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said on "Good Morning America" today.

Boehner and other critics say the expansion of executive powers would mean that the government is deciding interest rates on credit cards and what kind of financial proposals would be available, which is not beneficial for the industry or consumers.

"There certainly are gaps in the current system ... and we need to fill those gaps," Boehner said. "The question is, how big of a foot does the government have to play in the private sector and in our economy?"

Some experts charge that the administration is on a power grab. "It does begin to look like you are getting into a situation where there is no area of American life that isn't going to have an executive office bureaucrat dedicated to it," said Gene Healy, vice president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank in Washington, D.C.

Romer argued against criticism that these consumer protection measures mean that the government would essentially decide how people manage their pocketbooks.

"We have a lot of those regulations today spread around to a lot of agencies. ... What we're saying is that consumers deserve one agency whose only job is to watch out for them," Romer said, adding that, "This is getting people information, not making choices for them."

White House officials know that getting these proposals passed through Congress will not be an easy task. But despite the expected resistance, they want to see it get done as soon as possible.

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