Senate Ends Debate on Financial Regulation Bill, Clearing Path For Final Vote

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The Senate on Thursday cleared the way for a final vote on a financial regulation bill, overcoming a key hurdle after Majority Leader Harry Reid initially fell short of the votes needed to end debate.

The legislation, which seeks an overhaul of financial regulations unseen since the 1930s, would set up a mechanism to watch out for risks in the financial system, make it easier to liquidate large failing firms and write new rules for complex securities blamed for helping precipitate the 2008 economic crisis. It also would create a new consumer protection agency, a key point for President Obama.

In a 60-to-40 vote, The Senate on Thursday met the 60-vote threshold needed to move the bill to a final vote. But before voting on the legislation's final passage, senators must tackle two contentious issues. One would ban commercial banks from carrying speculative trades with their own money. The other would exempt auto dealers from oversight of the new consumer protection bureau.

President Obama applauded the Senate vote on Thursday, saying the legislation, if passed into law, will "protect consumers, protect our economy, and hold Wall Street accountable."

"This is not a zero-sum game where Wall Street loses and Main Street gains," Obama told reporters, adding that the bill will offer the "strongest consumer protection in history."

The bill hit a roadblock a day earlier when Reid failed to muster bipartisan support to end debate.

Republicans have argued that the bill has grown worse during its time on the Senate floor, and say it does not address root causes of the 2008 financial meltdown.

One Republican, Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, changed his vote on Thursday to end debate on the legislation.

Reid singled out Brown during a press conference Wednesday, saying the Massachusetts Republican, who initially voted against the procedure, "broke his word to me."

The Massachusetts Republican voted against ending debate on Wednesday after indicating he planned to vote in its favor. Without his vote, and with Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter absent, the bill temporarily stalled.

Brown met with Reid Thursday morning, however, and received assurances that his concerns would at some point be addressed.

The legislation did not have the support of all Senate Democrats. Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., joined Republicans in voting against the measure to end debate.

"We need to eliminate the risk posed to our economy by 'too big to fail' financial firms and to reinstate the protective firewalls between Main Street banks and Wall Street firms," Feingold said in a statement Wednesday. "Unfortunately, these key reforms are not included in the bill. The test for this legislation is a simple one -- whether it will prevent another financial crisis. As the bill stands, it fails that test. Ending debate on the bill is finishing before the job is done."

Two Republicans -- Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe -- voted with the Democrats.

The Obama administration on Thursday expressed support for the trading restriction, but said it would accept its demise if it meant killing an auto dealer measure it opposes.

Obama is expected to make a statement on the vote at 4:20 p.m. EDT on Thursday, the White House said.

Fox News' Trish Turner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.