Big picture near finished, then little details

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), right, and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-CT) speak to the media after the final vote on Wall Street reform. The Senate passed the Wall Street reform bill by a 60 to 38 vote.

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[UPDATE 7/15/10, 3:59 p.m.: A previous version of this story implied story said the filibuster rule was from the Constitution. It is not. Is it a Senate rule.]

Kai Ryssdal: It's the 60 part of that vote that was important. It's the one that got the Senate past the threat of a filibuster. The House having already agreed, the bill is now on its way to the to the White House. But for all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over what went into it, a lot of the details and a lot of the tough decisions are yet to come.

Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer reports.


Nancy Marshall Genzer: The epic fight to overhaul the financial system took more than a year. And it's not over. Congress is making federal regulators do the heavy lifting.

Michael Greenberger is a former financial regulator, who now teaches law at the University of Maryland. He says it's one thing to do battle in Congress.

Michael Greenberger: It's another thing to then turn to the battle in the subterranean processes of administrative agencies where you're dealing with rulemaking, studies, reports.

In fact, the financial overhaul calls for 243 separate rule makings alone, according to the law firm Davis Polk. Congress left some of the toughest decisions to federal agencies. Consider the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- the legislation gives the new bureau the power to make rules and sue to enforce them, but it's not clear when that power can be used.

Reid Cramer is a policy analyst at the New America Foundation.

Reid Cramer: The bill creates these new tools, but we need to know that we're beginning a major construction project here, and they're going to have to be used effectively.

And then there's the Financial Stability Oversight Council. Congress gave it the power to decide when a tottering financial institution is too big to fail. But the financial reform bill doesn't spell out when a too-big-to-fail bank should be shut down.

Why give so much power to regulators? Ed Mierzwinski of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group says it's simple.

Ed Mierzwinski: Regulators have expertise that Congress does not. Congress is just not good at little details.

But Mierzwinski says Congress will have to keep a tight rein on the regulators, to be sure they're implementing the legislation as lawmakers intended.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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