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Senate negotiators say deal close, but more talks needed

By the CNN Wire Staff
Sens. Chris Dodd, left, and Richard Shelby say they are trying to reach a bipartisan deal on financial reform.
Sens. Chris Dodd, left, and Richard Shelby say they are trying to reach a bipartisan deal on financial reform.
  • Senate Democratic leaders want to open debate on the bill Monday, Dodd says
  • Republicans have enough seats to block start of debate
  • McConnell says a deal is likely, but not as soon as Monday

Washington (CNN) -- A deal is close on a Senate financial reform bill, the leading negotiators said Sunday, but Republicans warned they are not yet prepared to launch debate on the measure.

Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama told NBC's "Meet the Press" that they would continue working Sunday to reach a deal on one of President Obama's top legislative priorities.

Dodd said the Senate's Democratic leadership plan is to open debate on the bill on Monday, but Shelby warned that might be too soon. Republicans have enough seats in the Senate to block the start of debate.

The Senate's top-ranking Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, told "FOX News Sunday" he also believed a deal was likely, but not as soon as Monday.

"We don't have a bipartisan compromise yet," McConnell said. "But I think there's a good chance that we're going to get it."

Asked if Republicans will allow debate on the bill to proceed Monday, McConnell said he didn't expect that to happen.

The House has passed its version of a financial regulation reform bill intended to prevent another Wall Street meltdown like the one in 2008 that led to the U.S. recession.

Dodd and Shelby have been negotiating a Senate bill for months, though their talks broke down when Dodd recently held a vote on the proposal in the Senate Banking Committee, which he chairs. The committee's Democrats approved the measure without any Republican support.

Last week, the Senate Agriculture Committee also passed a measure to tighten regulations on the complex system of trade known as derivatives. One Republican, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, joined Democrats on the committee in supporting the measure.

Negotiations involving Dodd, Shelby and other senators now are focused on merging the two Senate proposals into a single bill.

The Senate's top Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, says he will hold a vote Monday on opening debate on the financial reform bill. Reid's strategy is to force Republicans to either allow debate to proceed or go on record opposing Wall Street reforms that are strongly supported by the American public.

On the NBC show, Dodd said he hoped the continuing talks with Shelby would yield an agreement to allow the debate to begin on Monday. Any further changes necessary could take place in the amendment process during debate, Dodd argued.

"This doesn't end the debate tomorrow. This begins debate," Dodd said of moving forward on the legislation in the Senate.

"Tomorrow if another crisis occurs in this county, we're no better off than we were in 2008."

Shelby said the two sides were "very, very close" in concept, but still had to iron out differences over "two or three" provisions.

"It's very tedious," he said, adding that a deal by Monday was doubtful.

"If nothing happens between now and tomorrow, the Democrats will not get" any Republican support to open debate on the measure, Shelby said.

Another top Republican negotiator, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, told ABC's "This Week" that talks are focused on the major elements that must be in the bill, which he identified as stronger regulation of derivatives, increased consumer protection, and ensuring the orderly liquidation of failing companies. Once agreement is reached on those concepts, the bill can proceed to debate on the Senate floor, Corker said.

Democrats, however, say they fear Republicans are extending the negotiations to try to undermine the bill at the behest of Wall Street backers.

"Some Wall Street people have said the longer they can delay this, the more chance they can kill it," Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said on the ABC program.

"If the negotiators are going to come forward more as a delaying tactic, and [they are] just going to put in hundreds of amendments and try to keep this going so as to stall, delay and kill reform, that's not going to happen," added Austan Goolsbee, chief economist for Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, on the same program.

The Senate bills would tighten regulations on how Wall Street banks and firms function, with new requirements on how much capital they must maintain to protect against losses. The two proposals both seek to create a regulatory framework for derivatives, which are speculative investments on future outcomes intended to offset potential losses.

In addition, the legislation would create a consumer protection body intended to prevent unfair practices by banks and credit card companies.

Goolsbee and Lawrence Summers, the director of the White House's National Economic Council, stressed that the Obama administration wants the same things from Wall Street reforms as called for by Republicans.

Financiers have to assume greater risk in creating investment products, Goolsbee said, adding that "the people who originate the securities have to maintain some ownership so that if they pack it full of things that are going to fail, they themselves are going to lose money when they do it."

"If you look at the things the experts have cited as causes [of the Wall Street meltdown] ... they are all addressed by this bill," Summers said on the CBS program "Face the Nation."