With the country still struggling to rebound from a severe recession, Senate Democrats tonight secured the two Republican votes that could help them pass the biggest overhaul of the nation's financial system since the Great Depression, after the GOP's Scott Brown and Olympia Snowe voiced their support.
As the Senate returns from a week-long Independence Day recess today, Democrats are trying to finish work on a Wall Street reform bill that has been in the making since the financial crisis in the fall of 2008.
If the Senate passes the measure, possibly as soon as later this week, it would then go to President Barack Obama's desk for his signature, marking the administration's second-biggest legislative achievement after the health care reform bill that passed earlier this year.
In order to get anything done in the Senate, Democrats need 60 votes to overcome Republican filibusters. At the moment, Democrats appear to have secured the votes they need.
Brown of Massachusetts and Snowe of Maine both said Monday they would support the bill.
"After thoroughly reviewing the 2,315-page financial regulatory reform conference bill during the July 4 work period, I intend to support passage of the legislation when it's brought before the Senate for consideration," Snowe said in a paper statement.
"While it isn't perfect, I expect to support the bill when it comes up for a vote," Brown said in a statement Monday. "It includes safeguards to help prevent another financial meltdown, ensures that consumers are protected, and it is paid for without new taxes. That doesn't mean our work is done. Further reforms are still needed to address the government's role in the financial crisis, including significant changes to the way Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac operate."
Without the GOP support, Democrats would have had to wait until an interim replacement is named for the late West Virginian Sen. Robert Byrd.
Democrats in Congress and the White House know that a crackdown on Wall Street will go over well on Main Street, where Americans are still wrestling with 9.5 percent unemployment.
Obama, for one, has seen his popularity among independents plummet from 56 percent approval one year ago to 38 percent today. White House senior adviser David Axelrod blamed that drop on the devastating recession that the administration inherited in January 2009.
"When you're governing in a very difficult economic time, the worst economy since the Great Depression -- and that's what we walked into -- people are going to be unhappy, and they have a right to be unhappy," Axelrod told ABC News' Jake Tapper on "This Week" Sunday.
"These are difficult times and so this is not unexpected," he said. "And the best thing we can do is make the right decisions for the country, and that's what the president is going to do."
The sweeping Wall Street overhaul bill would create a consumer financial protection agency, let the government dismantle large failing firms, bring new oversight to the murky derivatives market, and cap the fees that debit card companies can charge retailers.