President Obama today said he was "gratified" by the progress lawmakers made on financial reform, striking a compromise deal early this morning to reform Wall Street.
"We are poised to pass the toughest financial reform since the ones we created in the aftermath of the Great Depression," Obama said today, adding that the bill represents 90 percent of what he proposed.
"The reforms making their way through Congress will hold Wall Street accountable so we can help prevent another financial crisis like the one that we're still recovering from," the president said. "No longer will we have companies that are 'too big to fail.'"
A select group of lawmakers from the House and Senate had been negotiating for the past few weeks on how to reconcile differences between the bill that passed the House last December and the bill that emerged from the Senate earlier this summer.
"This is a tremendous day," Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said in a statement. "After great debate, we have produced a strong Wall Street reform bill that will fundamentally change the way our financial services sector is regulated."
The sweeping reform bill, which came as a result of the financial meltdown two years ago, would create a consumer financial protection agency, allow the government to dismantle large failing firms, bring transparency to the murky derivatives market, and cap the fees that debit card companies can charge retailers.
"The bill that has emerged from conference is strong," said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in a statement. "It represents the most sweeping set of financial reforms since those that followed the Great Depression. It establishes the greatest consumer financial protections in American history. It prevents financial firms from taking risks that will threaten the economy. And it provides the government with significant new tools to better protect taxpayers from the damage of future financial crises."
"We urge Congress to carry the momentum forward and move swiftly toward final passage," Geithner said.
The most contentious issue for lawmakers was how to resolve Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln's plan to force banks to spin off their swaps desks into separately capitalized units. Banks -- and their army of lobbyists on Capitol Hill -- had homed in on the proposal.
Conference committee lawmakers, for their part, only started the final debate on the derivatives plan after midnight. Ultimately a Lincoln compromise with House Democrats paved the way for a deal on a weakened derivatives provision.
Lawmakers also included in the bill the so-called Volcker Rule, which limits proprietary trading.
A little past 5 o'clock this morning, after two weeks of publicly televised talks and a marathon 20-hour session Thursday, the conference committee finally passed the bill. The bill now goes back to Congress for final passage, a move the White House wants as soon as possible so that the president can sign the legislation into law by July 4.
Americans overwhelmingly support tougher regulations for Wall Street. In April, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 65 percent of Americans supported increased regulation over how banks and other financial institutions conducted their business. About six in 10 backed increased oversight of consumer loans.