From Sunlen Miller
Painting the day in a historical context, President Obama signed the Wall Street reform bill into law at the Ronald Reagan building in Washington, D.C late this morning.
“We are gathered, in the heart of our nation’s capital, surrounded by memorials to leaders and citizens who served our nation in its earliest days and in its days of greatest trial. Today is such time for America,” President Obama said, “these reforms represent the strongest consumer financial protections in history — in history.”
Flanked by Chairman Frank and Dodd, Vice President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Reid and others from Congress who contributed to the reform efforts, the president noted that the bill was no easy sell.
“Passing this bill was no easy task. To get there, we had to overcome the furious lobbying of an array of powerful interest groups and a partisan minority determined to block change.”
The president thanked the “three Republican senators” – Senators Snowe, Collins, and Brown – “who put partisanship aside, judged this bill on the merits and voted for reform.”
Speaking to the American people he president said that “for all those Americans who are wondering what Wall Street reform means to you, here’s what you can expect,” and told the stories of two Americans who could potentially benefit from the reform, standing on stage with her president. Robin Fox from Maryland was hit with a massive rate increase on her credit card balance even though she paid her bill on time, and Andrew Giordano from Georgia discovered hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees on his bank statement.
“Well, with this law, unfair rate hikes like the one that hit Robin will end for good. And we’ll ensure that people like Andrew aren’t unwittingly caught by overdraft fees when they sign up for a checking account.”
With the new law, Mr. Obama said, the American people will not have to foot the bill for Wall Street’s mistakes.
“There will be no more tax-funded bailouts. Period. If a large financial institution should ever fail, this reform gives us the ability to wind it down without endangering the broader economy. And there will be new rules to make clear that no firm is somehow protected because it is “too big to fail,” so we don’t have another AIG. That’s what this reform will mean.”
The president touted that the reform will “help foster innovation, not hamper it,” so that firms compete on price and quality, “not on tricks and not on traps.”
On the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, Mr. Obama said it is designed as a consumer watchdog with just one job “looking out for people — not big banks, not lenders, not investment houses — looking out for people as they interact with the financial system. “
The president said that this does not mean that the work is over with the bill’s signing.
“For these new rules to be effective, regulators will have to be vigilant. We may need to make adjustments along the way as our financial system adapts to these new changes and changes around the globe. No law can force anybody to be responsible; it’s still incumbent on those on Wall Street to heed the lessons of this crisis in terms of how they conduct their businesses.”