Panel OKs key regulatory measure; House vote next

By JIM KUHNHENN
Associated Press Writer
December 2, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats cleared a crucial hurdle Wednesday in their drive to expand the government’s power over Wall Street even as black lawmakers warned that they would use their votes as leverage to secure more economic aid to African-American communities.

The House Financial Services Committee voted to slap new restraints on big Wall Street institutions and to demand greater openness from the nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, setting the stage for final passage next week on a broader and sweeping piece of regulatory legislation.

The committee approved the measure 31-27 along party lines. The 10 members of the Congressional Black Caucus on the panel, all Democrats, boycotted the vote. Had they voted with Republicans, the bill would have failed.

“Since last September, we have continuously voted for bailout and reform for the very institutions that created this devastation, without properly protecting the African-American community or small business,” Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said at a post-vote news conference. “That stops today.”

Waters said black caucus members have had to educate Obama administration officials and the White House inner circle about the struggles in African-American communities, where unemployment far exceeds the already high national average.

Among the group’s demands were greater assistance for minority-owned auto dealerships, greater assistance to banks that lend in African-American communities and more government advertising in minority-owned media.

The black caucus’ warning comes just days before the House begins debate on a comprehensive regulatory overhaul. That package, set to go to the floor on Wednesday, would include the creation of a new consumer finance protection agency, restrictions on complex financial instruments blamed for feeding last year’s panic and restrictions on Wall Street compensation.

Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass, said he expected the bill to be debated for three days before final passage.

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