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With Health Care Down, Obama Turns Focus to Reshaping Financial System

After claiming victory on health care overhaul, President Obama is now turning his attention to reshaping the financial regulatory system.

"I think it is one of the president's top priorities now," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said this week.

As he did during the yearlong health care battle, the president has invited congressional Republicans and Democrats to meet with him on Wednesday to discuss proposals to overhaul financial regulations. And just like the health care debate, financial reform is becoming increasingly partisan.

Obama hopes the meeting with top lawmakers will help him forge a bipartisan agreement on the issue or at least help win over a few centrist Republicans.

Last year, Obama proposed a series of changes to the rules that govern the financial industry. The House approved most of them in December.

The Senate Banking Committee passed a bill in March, with no Republican support. That bill would create a new consumer protection division within the Federal Reserve; give the federal government the power to break up failing financial firms; and tighten regulations on complicated investments known as derivatives.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the Banking Committee and author of the legislation , said he wants the bill on the Senate floor later this month.

Dodd says the bill ends the idea that some financial firms are "too big to fail." And it's that idea that could bring some compromise. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will attend Wednesday's meeting, says there may be room for an agreement on regulating large financial firms.

But negotiations have bogged down on other issues.

Democrats and the White House say new rules are needed to protect taxpayers, investors and the integrity of the marketplace. Republicans argue the measures backed by Democrats could make the regulatory system worse and cut off access to credit.

White House officials say the president will personally push for passage of the financial overhaul bill when Congress returns next week from its Easter break. Obama's first big effort is the bipartisan meeting on Wednesday.

With Democrats united, Obama will need at least one Senate Republican vote to score another major legislative victory. Democrats believe public anger over Wall Street's meltdown, which was largely blamed for the recession and near collapse of the global financial system, will help them ultimately succeed.