Posts Tagged ‘house of representatives’

Congress Bids Gabby Giffords a Fond Farewell

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

A rare glimpse of bi-partisanship was seen today in the House of Representatives as Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) officially resigned, slightly one year after being shot in the head at a “Congress on Your Corner” session in her native Tucson.  Giffords, who resigned to devote her time to undergoing intensive rehabilitation, walked with a limp.  With the guidance of her friend, Democratic Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Giffords slowly made her way to the well at the front of the House chamber.  Another friend, Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ), held her hand.  Wasserman Schultz praised her colleague’s strength.  “I am so proud of my friend,” she said.  “It will always be one of the great treasures of my life to have met Gabby Giffords and to have served with her in this body,” the Florida congresswoman said.

According to Giffords’ resignation letter, “Even as I have worked to regain my speech, thank you for your faith in my ability to be your voice.  Everyday, I am working hard.  I will recover and will return, and we will work together again, for Arizona and for all Americans,” she pledged to her former colleagues and constituents.  Giffords, who has promised that she will return to public service when she is fully recovered from her gunshot wound, faces months – even years – of rehabilitation.

One of Giffords’ final actions in her five years in Congress was to vote in favor of a bill that she had co-sponsored and which dealt with smuggling on the United States Mexico border. The measure passed unanimously. The legislation outlaws the use of ultralight aircraft to smuggle drugs.  Giffords’s congressional district includes part of Arizona’s southern border with Mexico.  The legislation, which the Senate is expected to approve quickly, would subject violators to up to 20 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

The session was emotional at times. Democratic Minority Whip Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said “The House of Representatives of America has been made proud by this extraordinary daughter of this House, who served so well during her tenure here, who felt so deeply about her constituents and cared so much for her country.  Gabby, we love you. We have missed you.”  Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) was teary-eyed as he formally declared Giffords’ resignation.

Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly – a retired Navy Captain and former astronaut – summed up his wife’s position.  “She realized she was not going to run for re-election and this point the right thing to do was for her to step down,” Kelly said.  “But I’m more optimistic than anybody else about her future.  She just needs some more time, whether it’s a year or two years or three years, I’m very confident she’s going to have a long and effective career as a public servant.”

Writing in the Tucson Citizen, Carolyn Classen said that “There is a bumper sticker ‘Gabrielle Giffords continues to inspire’ which was placed at the Tucson three impromptu memorials that sprang up after the shooting.  It was a testament of her courage and inspirational fight back to health, which is still ongoing (and the reason for her resignation).  Because the Glock 9mm bullet entered the left side of her brain, Gabby’s right leg, right arm/hand, and speech were affected by the injury, and she now is working in rehab with her aphasia –speech & language difficulties — and reduced physical mobility.  Prior to this shooting, Gabby was an avid hiker, and rode horses, a bicycle, and a motorcycle.  But I know what a healthy, friendly, strong-willed individual she was as a politician and community activist, and I know she will work tirelessly now at age 41 to recover fully from her injury.  She took a bullet in the line of duty as a U.S. Congresswoman and should be praised for her courage and resiliency, and hard work for over 10 years as a state & federal legislator.”

With Giffords’ resignation, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is required to schedule a special election to fill the term.  The primary is likely to be in April and the general election in June.  The winner will then be up for re-election to a full two-year term in November.

Arizona law requires that the governor act within 72 hours to schedule a special election to fill a vacant U.S. House.  According to Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson, the 72 hours begins Wednesday, January 25, at 5 p.m. because that is when Giffords’ resignation takes effect.


Reinventing Fannie and Freddie

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

The initial steps to dismantle Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are underway with the introduction of a bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives that would replace the mortgage giants with a minimum of five companies that would issue mortgage-backed securities with significant federal regulation.  The compromise legislation proposed by Representative John Campbell (R-CA) and Representative Gary Peters (D-MI) is likely to be the only plan that will attract sufficient support from both parties on a politically volatile subject, especially at a time when gridlock looms over issues such as how to curb federal spending.  The bailout of the two companies has cost taxpayers upwards of $100 billion.

According to Representative Campbell, “Rather than putting out a political marker, we can move a piece of legislation that is significant…and can actually become law.  The only other approach that’s out there in a bill is one that replaces Fannie and Freddie with nothing.”  Other policymakers, such as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, have discussed the merits of a limited but unambiguous government guarantee of securities backed by certain types of mortgages.  The new entities – similar to Fannie and Freddie — would be limited to purchasing loans that meet certain standards, including size caps.  The difference would be that the firms would be required to hold much more capital than Fannie and Freddie.  Only the mortgage-backed securities that they issue –not the companies themselves — would enjoy federal guarantees.  The companies would operate similarly to public utilities and likely will not have exchange-listed shares.

Critics say the proposal risks recreating the same dynamics that led Fannie and Freddie to use their government ties to take risks that harmed taxpayers.  “In reality, this is almost surely going to be terrible,” said Dwight Jaffee, finance professor at the University of California, Berkeley.   Government insurance programs, he says, inevitably lead to “a catastrophe.”  Advocates argue that taxpayers will be less exposed to losses because borrowers will have to make significant downpayments.  Additionally, the new firms will have to hold more capital.  Additionally, the firms will be required pay a fee for government backing to finance a catastrophic insurance fund, much as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation levies fees and handles bank failures.

The mortgage and housing industry support a continued government role in supporting mortgage lending, including the Mortgage Bankers Association, National Association of Realtors and National Association of Home Builders.

The agencies are still hemorrhaging money.  For example, Fannie Mae reported a loss of $8.7 billion for the 1st quarter of 2011, which included a $2.2 billion dividend payment to the Treasury Department.  The loss was significantly less than the $13 billion reported one year ago.  “We need to manage our credit book — our old legacy book very vigorously,” said Fannie Mae President and CEO Michael Williams.  But that is not in conflict with helping distressed homeowners.  “Helping people to avoid foreclosure is a good thing,” Williams said.

Action must be taken to keep the mortgage market afloat and provide securitization for investments.  According to a Washington Post editorial,  “The housing market is still in deep trouble.  Prices nationwide have fallen by about a third since the peak in 2006 — and they appear to be trending down again.  The resulting hit to household wealth may hinder the recovery, which is already sluggish.  Small wonder that various advocates for housing are once again asking Washington for help.  But in at least one area, the prescription would be worse than the disease.  We refer to calls for extending the current elevated limit on the size of loans eligible for securitization by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage-finance giants operating under government control.  Congress ‘temporarily’ raised the limit to a maximum of $729,759 in certain markets in response to the sudden evaporation of private liquidity during the 2008 crisis, but that measure is set to lapse at the end of September.  At that point, the limit will not revert to the pre-crisis maximum of $417,000 in most of the country but to a level set in relation to local medians — and capped at $625,000.  But the Obama administration has supported a reversion to lower loan limits as the first step in gradually reforming the mortgage security market and reducing taxpayer exposure to Fannie and Freddie.  The administration’s goal is to lure cash-rich would-be mortgage securitizers back into the market, starting with the high end.  Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has described this as “crowding in” private capital, and it is the rare housing policy proposal that has enjoyed a measure of bipartisan support.”

Regulators Cracking Down on Banks Over Foreclosures

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Federal regulators at the Departments of Justice, Treasury and Housing, as well as the Federal Trade Commission, have ordered the nation’s largest banks to revamp their foreclosure procedures and compensate borrowers who were financially hurt by “pervasive” bad behavior or carelessness.  According to the bank regulators, failure to comply with the rules will result in fines and a broad investigation conducted by state attorneys general and other federal agencies.  The regulators acted after being criticized for not putting a halt to risky lending practices during the housing boom.

Describing the lending practices as “a pattern of misconduct and negligence,” the Federal Reserve said that “These deficiencies represent significant and pervasive compliance failures and unsafe and unsound practices at these institutions.”  Borrowers in trouble have complained that applying for a modification using the Obama administration’s program has been too complicated and characterized by multiple games of telephone tag.  Enforcement requires servicers to set up compliance programs and hire an independent firm to review residential-foreclosures.  The banks will be required to make sure that communications are more “effective” between borrowers and banks when it comes to foreclosure and mortgage-modification proceedings.

Citibank, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, the nation’s four leading banks, top the list of financial firms cited by the Federal Reserve, Office of Thrift Supervision and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.  Citigroup said that it had “self-identified” desired changes in 2009 and that it has helped more than 1.1 million homeowners avoid foreclosure.  “We are committed to working with our regulators to further strengthen our programs in these areas and meeting these new requirements,” the company said.

As stern as the recent move seems to be, there are still critics.  “These consent orders are worse than doing nothing,” said Alys Cohen, staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center.  “They set the bar so low on some things and they give the banks carte blanche on others.  And they give the appearance of doing something while giving banks control of the process.”  Additionally, consumer advocates and members of Congress said the new rules are too little, too late.

Congressional critics maintain that the order is too moderate.  House Democrats introduced legislation that would require lenders to perform specific actions, including an appeals process, before starting foreclosures.  “I want to know what abuses (the government agencies) identified, which banks committed them and how their proposed consent agreement is going to fix these problems,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) the ranking member of the House Government and Oversight Committee.  “Based on what I have read…I am not encouraged at all.”

More than 50 consumer groups don’t like the settlement,  and claim that the expected settlements do little more than require mortgage servicers to obey existing laws and that they lack penalties.  “They’re left to police their new improvements,” said Katherine Porter, a University of Iowa law professor who is an expert on mortgage services.  Another concern is that the settlements may weaken the ability of 50 state attorneys general to force concessions from mortgage servicers.  The attorneys general have been investigating mortgage servicers since last fall, and in March sent the companies a list of terms, which go further than those pursued by bank regulators.  Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who’s leading the joint effort, says any settlements with banking regulators will not “pre-empt” the states’ efforts.

AmeriCorps Funding Is on the Congressional Chopping Block

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Budget cutters on Capitol Hill are aiming their scissors at AmeriCorps, which was created in 1993 when President Bill Clinton signed into law the National Community Service Trust Act. With the stroke of a pen, Clinton created the Corporation for National and Community Service and brought domestic community service programs under a single umbrella organization.  This legislation built on the first National Service Act signed by President H.W. Bush in 1990 as part of his “Points of Light” campaign.  AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs that engage Americans in a year of public service to meet the nation’s needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment.

Writing in The New Republic, former AmeriCorps member Tiffany Stanley says “Now, 17 years after its creation, AmeriCorps is on the chopping block.  The most recent continuing resolution passed by the House would cut all federal funding for the agency that oversees the program, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), effectively wiping out AmeriCorps.  Ending the program would not only eliminate jobs for the 85,000 individuals who serve each year through AmeriCorps, it would also significantly burden organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Teach for America (TFA) and City Year that depend on AmeriCorps participants for their cost-effective labor.”

“This is potentially a devastating disaster, a civic tsunami,” said Karen Baker, California state Cabinet secretary for service and volunteering.  AmeriCorps is one of many programs targeted for cuts by the House of Representatives’ new Republican majority, which campaigned on a promise to slash spending in Washington.  The House’s conservative caucus, the Republican Study Committee, disagrees with the living stipends and education awards offered to AmeriCorps members.  “With the federal budget going $4.3 trillion — plus interest -=-into the red in just the last three years, paying people to ‘volunteer’ is not an appropriate use of taxpayer money,” caucus spokesman Brian Straessle wrote.  A House of Representatives spending bill approved in February cuts $1.15 billion for the Corporation for National and Community Service, effectively shutting down the federal agency that operates AmeriCorps.

According to Stanley, AmeriCorps had much bipartisan support throughout its history.  “Perhaps the most objectionable element of the proposal is that many of the programs that AmeriCorps funds are exactly the kind that so-called compassionate conservatives are supposed to support,” she writes.  “Rather than offering a government hand-out, AmeriCorps-backed programs like Habitat for Humanity which require low-income recipients to work alongside volunteers.  (As Newt Gingrich once wrote:  ‘I am proud to work with Habitat for Humanity, which helps poor people build their own homes.’)  And, over the years, AmeriCorps’ efficacy has won over a host of conservatives, including John McCain and Colin Powell.”

Exactly what do AmeriCorps members do?  Stanley notes that “Corps members spend a year or two in the most blighted neighborhoods in America, serving in non-profits, social service agencies and community- and faith-based organizations.  They teach in schools, clean up parks, create affordable housing, and respond to natural disasters.  Last year, for example, 650 AmeriCorps members serving with Habitat for Humanity helped manage 200,000 volunteers, completing 3,500 houses.”

Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY), the House Appropriations Chair, claims the cuts are necessary and will “weed out excessive, unnecessary and wasteful spending, making tough choices to prioritize programs based on their effectiveness.”  Considering that AmeriCorps attracts more than $800 million annually from private and non-federal resources, Stanley says that its proven results and sound funding hardly makes it “excessive” or “wasteful.”

A Boston Globe editorial also questions cutting the AmeriCorps program.  “Beyond that, the national service program has become an incubator for initiatives — in areas ranging from housing to urban education –promising a more entrepreneurial, participatory approach to addressing public needs.  This kind of innovation should appeal to budget-conscious lawmakers, even if it involves some up-front expense.  The national service agency mobilizes more than five million Americans — mostly unpaid volunteers — who fan out into schools, food banks, senior developments, homeless shelters, and other areas in need of experienced hands.  Some Republicans look askance at the modest stipends offered by some of the service programs.  AmeriCorps members, for example, scrape by on about $12,000 in living expenses during their year of service.  What Republicans ignore is that each AmeriCorps member is expected to recruit 30 or more unpaid volunteers.  And that the commitment to public service lasts long after the stipend disappears.  Thankfully, many senior Republicans, including former President George W. Bush, have stepped forward to defend it as a means of leveraging Americans’ community spirit.  Even in a time of deficits, when all acknowledge that some worthy programs will have to be cut, the agency looks completely out of place on the chopping block.”

Minorities Driving U.S. Population Growth, Congressional Redistricting

Monday, February 14th, 2011

The results of the long-awaited 2010 U.S. Census are in and reveal some interesting statistics.  One is the fact that 85 percent of the nation’s population growth over the last 10 years is attributable to minorities – primarily Hispanics, who make up the gains made in states that will add new seats in the House of Representatives. Early results also indicate that the number of multiracial Americans climbed approximately 20 percent since 2000 to more than 5 million individuals.

“The growth of the Hispanic community is one of the stories that will be written from the 2010 census,” Census director Robert Groves said, previewing major demographic trends, including the movement of many minorities from cities to suburbs.  We should see a big difference from 2000 to 2010.”  E. Mark Braden, a former chief counsel to the Republican National Committee who now advises state governments on redistricting, agrees noting that “There are going to be a lot of additional Hispanic officials elected when redistricting is done.”

The minority growth seen in the 2010 Census is the largest in generations.  Only the influx of European minority immigrants – primarily Italians, Poles and Jews – towards the end of the 19th century rival it in scope, said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.  “The new engines of growth in America’s population are Hispanics, Asians and other minorities,” Frey said. “But it’s just the tip of the iceberg.  For the under-18 population — potential voters in the not-too-distant future — minorities accounted for virtually all the growth in most U.S. states.  Political strategists and advocates, especially in growing states, cannot afford to ignore this surging political wave.”

Four of the eight states that are gaining House seats as a result of the 2010 Census owe approximately half of their population gains to Hispanics.  They include Texas, which picks up four seats; Florida, which adds two seats; and Arizona and Nevada, which gain one seat each.  In Georgia and Washington, which are picking up one seat each, Hispanics and other minority groups represent a majority of their growth since 2000.

Among states losing House seats, Louisiana and New Jersey each would have posted a net population loss, and Michigan would have seen more significant declines, if it hadn’t been for Hispanic growth.  Latinos also made up nearly 60 percent of the growth in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa and Massachusetts — each of which loses a House seat.

Not surprisingly, minority births are driving diversity.  Record levels of births among minorities over the past 10 years are moving the United States a step closer to a demographic milestone in which no one group commands a majority, according to Census estimates. Minorities accounted for nearly 49 percent of births in the year ending July 1, 2009, a record high level.  “There are more than 500 counties which have a majority of minority children,” says Kenneth Johnson, demographer at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute.  “The population is changing to minority from the bottom up.”

2010 U.S. Census Shows Slowest Population Growth in 70 Years

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

2010 U.S. Census Shows Slowest Population Growth in 70 YearsNow that the long-awaited data from the 2010 Census has been published, the states are learning which places will gain congressional seats and precious electoral votes — a circumstance that could impact the outcome of the 2012 presidential election.  The U.S. Constitution requires a census count every 10 years to accurately reflect population shifts in the nation and determine congressional reapportionment as the states divide the House of Representatives’ 435 seats.  Inevitably, Democrats and Republicans will squabble over redistricting as states gaining or losing seats draw new districts.

“Many of the population increases are expected in Republican-leaning states in the South and West, while traditional strongholds of the Democrats in the North and Midwest are expected to lose population,” noted Keating Holland, CNN’s polling director.  Additionally, because Republicans in several states took control of the legislatures from Democrats in the mid-term elections, they will have significant control over how the districts are redrawn.

Ohio and New York each will lose two Congressional seats.  Poised to lose a single seat are Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  California will retain its 53 Congressional seats – the largest in the nation.  States that will pick up seats include Florida, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau,  the data gleaned will “directly affect how more than $4 trillion is allocated to state, local and tribal governments over the next 10 years.”  If preliminary estimates hold true, the 2010 census will reveal that America’s population growth fell to its lowest level in 70 years. Demographers believe the official 2010 count will be approximately 308.7 million, putting U.S. growth at nine percent, the slowest growth since the 1940 census.  During that decade, the Great Depression slashed previous population growth rate by more than half, to 7.3 percent.  The U.S. is still growing quickly relative to other developed nations.  The population in France and England each increased approximately five percent over the past decade; Japan’s population is largely unchanged and Germany’s population is declining.  China grew at about six percent; Canada’s growth rate is more or less 10 percent.

November Unemployment Matches 1980s Record

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

November Unemployment Matches 1980s RecordWith the U.S. unemployment rate rising to 9.8 percent in November,  the Department of Labor is concerned that economic recovery isn’t progressing as quickly as it would prefer.  For the 19th consecutive month, unemployment has stayed above nine percent — the longest streak on record, beating out previous highs in the 1980s.   Despite optimistic predictions that the nation would add 150,000 jobs in November, just 39,000 new jobs were added during the month, bringing unemployment up from 9.6 percent to 9.8 percent.

The Federal Reserve has decided to stay the course, saying the “economic recovery is continuing, though at a rate that has been insufficient to bring down unemployment.”   Worries about steady high unemployment were the main motivation behind the Fed’s decision to launch a second round of economic stimulus in November with a new bond-buying program.  Progress on reducing unemployment has been “disappointingly slow,” according to the Fed.

The persistent level of high unemployment shows that many Americans are still suffering, even though the National Bureau of Economic Research says the recession officially ended in June 2009.   The economy lost more than eight million jobs during the recession.  “To anyone around the dinner table, it means little,” says Lawrence Mishel, president of the liberal Economic Policy Institute.  “The fact is, unemployment is going to remain flat for a year.”

“With the jobless rate stuck at 9.8 percent, the economy needs all the help it can get,” said Sung Won Sohn, economist at California State University.  Because nearly 40 percent of the unemployed have been jobless for more than six months, there is growing fear that the cause may be more profound than the deepest recession in more than 70 years.

House GOP Taking a Second Look at Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Law

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Congressional Republicans may water down the financial reform law.  The newly empowered Republicans in the House of Representatives will attempt to rein in regulators who are in the process of implementing the comprehensive reform of financial rules and advocate for a smaller government role in the mortgage market.  By taking control of the House in the recent mid-term elections, the GOP will have more influence over the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and greater sway over any technical fixes that Congress makes to rules that govern derivatives trading.

“We don’t want them to regulate capriciously, arbitrarily, without engaging in a cost-benefit analysis,” said Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), a member of the House Financial Services Committee.  President Barack Obama brought attention to the Republicans’ intent in a recent radio and Internet address, noting that House and Senate members “are now beating the drum to repeal all of these reforms and consumer protections.  I think it would be a terrible mistake,” he said.

With Democrats still in control of the Senate and in the White House, it’s highly unlikely that the Republicans will be able to carry out a fundamental revision or even repeal of the Dodd-Frank law.  There’s also the possibility of a presidential veto if repeal legislation makes it through both houses on Congress.  Because the Republicans now have a majority in the House, the diminished number of Senate Democrats will have to reach across party lines on financial issues for the simple reason that any changes will require support from both parties.  Bipartisan compromise will be used to arrive at consensus in the next Congress, said Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), who is replacing the retiring Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT), who headed the Senate Banking Committee.  According to Johnson, “We sometimes differ on how we achieve our goals, but we have to agree more often than not.”

Support the National Alzheimer’s Project Act in Congress

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Legislation to create the National Alzheimer’s Project Act is quietly working its way through Congress.  By 2050 – just 40 years from now — nearly 16 million Americans will be afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease.  Surprisingly, there is not yet a national plan to deal with this looming crisis, although one has been proposed on Capitol Hill.  The National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) would establish an inter-agency advisory council to address the government’s efforts on Alzheimer’s research, care, institutional services, and home- and community-based programs.  S.B. 3036 and H.R. 4689 would create a government agency to exclusively deal with Alzheimer’s issues.

Co-sponsored by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Birch Bayh (D-IN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Jon Tester (D-MT), the proposal would create a special office within the White House to coordinate research, clinical care and services with the goal of preventing, caring for and curing Alzheimer’s Disease.

“Alzheimer’s takes a tremendous emotional and financial toll on over 75,000 Coloradans and their families,” according to Bennet.  “Yet our nation’s healthcare system is not set up to appropriately coordinate and share the research we’re doing to prevent, cure and care for our patients.  This bill will streamline the country’s research efforts so that we can better find ways to combat this disease while also making much better use of our taxpayer dollars.”

Approximately half of Americans who live to 85 will suffer from Alzheimer’s.  Once the legislation is passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Office of the National Alzheimer’s director would be named to the Domestic Policy Council and the Office of Science and Technology.  This director would have input into all policy aspects of the disease, as well as focus on high-risk groups and those underserved by existing Alzheimer’s programs.

Senate, House Versions of Financial Reform Bill Headed to Reconciliation

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Senate passes financial reform legislation; the bill now must be reconciled with the House version.  Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) is enjoying a big victory in his last days in the Senate following passage of broad financial reform legislation designed to rein in the excesses that caused the financial meltdown.  First, the Senate and House versions of the bill must undergo reconciliation.  Under the new law, for example, homebuyers will have to provide proof of income when applying for a mortgage.  Additionally, a new consumer protection apparatus will monitor lenders who offer subprime loans and then raise interest rates to sky-high levels.

The legislation – which will bring openness to complex financial instruments such as derivatives – passed 59 – 31 and provides a way to liquidate financial institutions once viewed as too big to fail.  It also establishes a council of regulators who will monitor threats to the economy and specific restraints on the derivatives trading, which set off the toxic debts that froze the credit markets and prompted the Federal Reserve to make trillions of dollars of loans to banks on the brink of collapse.

The vote hands President Obama his second landmark legislative victory this year, following the March passage of his historic health-care bill. “Our goal is not to punish the banks,” he said hours before the final vote, “but to protect the larger economy and the American people from the kind of upheavals that we’ve seen in the past few years.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) summed up the legislation: “When this bill becomes law, the joyride on Wall Street will come to a screeching halt.”  The reconciled bill is expected to hit President Obama’s desk for his promised signature this summer.