Tip Sheet on Financial Reform

House Financial Services chairman Barney Frank and Senate Banking chairman Christopher Dodd during the House-Senate conference on the financial-overhaul bill. S.J. Ferrell / Congressional Quarterly-Getty

Where, oh, where is our financial reform?
Well, it’s locked up in Congress, as House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank and Senate Banking Committee chairman Christopher Dodd try to secure the 60 votes needed for the bill to avoid a filibuster in the Senate. Counting the votes is turning into a bit of parlor game since Sen. Robert Byrd died June 28, and in a replay of the health-care vote, Democrats are furiously courting moderate Republicans like Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins in the hopes they’ll support the bill. Other items to note:
The moving deadline: President Obama had wanted to sign the bill in the days leading up to Congress’s July 4 recess, but with Senator Byrd’s memorial services planned for Thursday and with the lack of Senate support, it looks like the president may not tackle it until the week of July 12.
The surprising protagonist: Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts has emerged as the unlikely character at the heart of financial regulation. Late Tuesday, Brown insisted that, in order to win his vote, the conference committee reconvene and get rid of the roughly $20 billion tax on hedge funds and big banks (such as Massachusetts giant Fidelity). The tax would have been used to help fund the bill; instead the conference committee came up with a new plan to pay for the financial regulatory reform with TARP money and with higher fees for banks regulated by the FDIC. As Ezra Klein succinctly says, “That means small banks, not just large banks and large hedge funds, will be on the hook for implementation.”  Now that Brown got his wish, he’s still not sure whether he’ll vote for the bill.
The lobbyists who look ahead while Congress dithers: Congressional leaders may be wheeling and dealing for the 60 votes, but financial-service lobbyists, according to The New York Times, are already looking ahead, to the regulators. Lucky for them, the 2,000-page bill leaves many of the details to regulators themselves. As the Center for Responsive Politics reports, there may be bank jobs in every regulator’s future: 56 of the financial-service-sector lobbyists previously worked for the conference-committee members.
Financial stability in … 12 years? As Heidi Moore, a guest blogger at Fortune, points out,  “In the U.S., much of the Dodd-Frank bill (should it ever pass) wimps out and pushes many of its most important decisions until later, and in some cases leaves rule-making loopholes that could allow banks to delay major changes until 2022.”
Does this mean we’ll have to wait another decade before we know whether our financial system works well? And which will come first, the answer, or another crash?