Members of Congress gather in the Senate chamber
Members of Congress gather in the Senate chamber - 
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Kai Ryssdal: Eighteen months on from the collapse of Lehman Brothers, we are still waiting for Congress to get around to writing new rules for the financial sector. Well, we're waiting for half of Congress anyway. The House passed its financial reform bill back in December. The Senate, not quite yet. Its version has been delayed for months as senators haggle over what may, or may not be, in the final bill.

We asked our Washington bureau chief John Dimsdale to help explain what might get left out.

JOHN DIMSDALE: Leaks from back room negotiations indicate senators are trying to exempt parts of the financial industry from strict federal regulations. Auto lenders, mortgage originators, smaller banks, and credit unions, for example. The New York Times reports Tennessee Republican Bob Corker wants to exempt pay day lenders from the new rules. Lawmakers call those "carve-outs" and at a panel discussion today, Senator Corker denied he's pushing for any.

SENATOR BOB CORKER: There is no carveout for payday lenders. There's no carveouts for anybody.

Still, reports persist the Senate bill may shield banks from state oversight, keeping states from imposing stricter rules on the financial services industry.

Tim Duncan with American Business Leaders for Financial Reform says powerful interest groups are at work.

TIM DUNCAN: You know, let's be honest, this isn't about substance. It's about political contributions and lobbyists getting their customers accepted.

The lawmakers behind efforts to water down the bill are rarely revealed. On MSNBC today, the House version's sponsor, Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, said opponents of tough regulations will have to back off once the House and Senate try to reconcile their differences.

BARNEY FRANK: I think some of my Republican colleagues who are prepared to kind of cut back on consumer protection and sensible regulation in private deals, may be less willing to insist on that if we've gotta do it publicly and vote on it publicly.

The lead Senate negotiator, Connecticut Democrat Christopher Dodd, expects a final proposal "in a few days."

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.