Formal Conference on Wall Street Bill Starts Thursday

Posted June 8, 2010 at 4:51pm

House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank is poised to get his wish: a formal, public conference on legislation overhauling regulations governing the nation’s financial services industry.

Leaving a Tuesday afternoon leadership meeting in the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Frank said the first of several open House-Senate conference meetings to reconcile competing versions of the regulatory overhaul would take place Thursday. “This is a real working legislative session,” the Massachusetts Democrat said.

Frank met Tuesday with Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) to coordinate conference plans, Frank said. They scheduled three days of meetings next week in the House, followed by at least three days of meetings the week of June 21 in the Senate, he said, adding that he and Dodd would be “cleared” to stay on until Saturday of that week if necessary to finalize a conference report.

The schedule is designed to preserve the possibility that both chambers could adopt a conference report and send it to President Barack Obama before the July Fourth recess, slated to begin July 2. “The bills are closer than major bills usually are through two houses, and we are on track to meet that, although there is no guarantee,” Frank said.

He said the process would serve as a template for other legislation that moves through his committee.

Frank declined to comment on whether he would support a controversial amendment that Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) could push that would toughen the proposed ban on proprietary trading by banks.

Pelosi plans to appoint House conferees Wednesday, Frank said, adding that conference meetings would alternate between the House Financial Services and Senate Banking committee hearing rooms. The Senate appointed its conferees late last month.

“This will be the most open conference in my recent memory,” Frank said, adding that the topic of each day’s negotiations, along with the “base text” from which the conferees will work, would be available to the public ahead of time.