WASHINGTON – Democrats sent a massive Wall Street regulation bill to the full Senate on a party-line vote Monday after a temporary retreat by Republicans that still left the bill’s chances for bipartisan passage in doubt.

In a surprise move, the Senate Banking Committee met briefly to approve the bill 13-10, but not before Republicans jettisoned more than 300 amendments they’d planned that could have put their imprint on the bill.

Senators had been expecting a long week of votes and debate, only to find themselves voting as they were still easing into their seats.

Despite a conciliatory tone from the committee’s Democratic and GOP leaders, the development did little to mend the partisan split over the legislation and adds more uncertainty to Congress’ ability to pass a sweeping rewrite of financial regulations this year. The Senate would not take up the bill until April at the earliest.

In their opening remarks before the committee vote Monday, panel chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and the committee’s top Republican, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, chose to sound optimistic about the bill’s prospects.

“We will have reform this year,” Dodd said.

“I just don’t believe we’re quite there yet,” Shelby cautioned.

The legislation would give the government unprecedented powers to split up firms considered a threat to the economy, put together a council of regulators to watch for risks in the financial system and create an independent consumer watchdog.

Shelby said seeking changes in committee would have been pointless.

He said he hoped he and Dodd would find agreement before the bill reaches the Senate floor.

Dodd did accept 25 Democratic amendments, including one sought by Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairwoman Sheila Bair that she said would prevent unintended bailouts of large financial institutions.

Democrats and Republicans are mostly split over the need for an independent consumer entity.

But other issues also divide the parties, including how to regulate complex trading instruments and what firms should be exempt from new rules.


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