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Consensus in Senate builds to weaken Federal Reserve by stripping it of bank oversight

• Examiner

In the House, Rep. Barney Frank, a Democrat, was expected to propose a regulatory reform bill that is closer to Obama's proposal.

The idea of an emboldened new Federal Reserve isn't sitting well on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers have little power over the central bank. While the Fed frequently reports to Congress, it maintains an independent status aimed at keeping politics out of the nation's monetary policy.

The House Financial Services Committee this week will hold a hearing on legislation by Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, that would subject the Fed to increased audits by congressional watchdogs.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said the administration didn't advocate a more streamlined regulatory system because it wanted to focus its energy on adding protections for consumers and policing institutions deemed "too big to fail."

"We did not want to put you in a position of having to spend a lot of time on changes that may be desirable, that may leave us with a neater system, maybe a more efficient system, but were not central to the cause of the problem," Geithner told the Senate panel this summer.

In private deliberations with the administration and other senators, Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, has advocated since spring an alternative plan that would strip the Fed and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation of their roles in helping regulate state-chartered banks and replace them with a single federal prudential regulator.

Dodd also is expected to reject Obama's suggestion that the Fed monitor systemwide risk and decide whether an institution's existence threatens the economy.

Instead, Dodd wants to establish a council of regulators, a panel that would include the Fed. An independent chairman would likely make the final decision on whether the government should intervene and dismantle a firm.

While Dodd differs from Obama on the plan on those two points, he supports the president's idea to strip the Fed of its consumer protection duties and create a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency. That issue has become a sticking point in his negotiations with Republicans, who contend the agency's creation would be too burdensome for community banks.

While that legislation would likely set the tone for the debate, the negotiations in the Senate were considered more crucial to the final outcome. Democrats hold a slim majority in the Senate, where 60 votes are usually needed to overcome Republican opposition.

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