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Bank bill set to pass committee on party line vote

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By JIM KUHNHENN

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON -- Republicans abandoned hope of altering Wall Street legislation in a key Senate committee on Monday, clouding prospects for a bipartisan bill and leaving the fight for the full Senate.

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Republicans had offered more than 300 amendments to legislation proposed by Senate Bank-ing Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, but they withdrew them over the weekend. That cleared the way for a quick party-line committee vote on Dodd's proposal late Monday or early Tuesday.

The surprise development did nothing to mend the partisan fissures over the legislation and adds even more uncertainty to Congress' ability to pass a sweeping rewrite of financial regula-tions this year. The Senate would not take up the bill until April at the earliest.

"You'll have Easter recess, and that's when, I guess, over the course of the next several weeks when the real negotiations will be taking place," said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., a member of the committee who had held negotiations with Dodd. Corker spoke on CNBC.

The measure aims to avoid a recurrence of the 2008 financial crisis that helped plunge the country into the deepest recession since the Great Depression.

With more than 300 Republican amendments and nearly 100 Democratic changes, committee members had prepared themselves for a long and arduous week of debate and votes on the bill. Instead, senators now planned to make opening remarks later Monday and then vote on Dodd's bill. That vote could be pushed back to Tuesday morning.

Industry lobbyists said the decision made it much more difficult to predict what the Senate would ultimately do with the legislation.

Various potential outcomes were likely:

--The legislation would go to the floor but without the support of at least one Republican, it would be blocked by procedural delays that would require 60 votes to overcome. There are 41 Republicans in the Senate, enough to sustain a filibuster.

--The bill would pass out of committee on a party-line vote, but Sen. Richard Shelby of Ala-bama, the ranking Republican on the committee, would strike a bargain and pass a bill with bipartisan support. That is what happened last year with legislation that changed credit card rules.

--The bill would move out of committee and Democrats would seek to pick off one or two Re-publicans to support the bill and break a filibuster.

"There is no choice other than a bipartisan compromise solution," Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, a Democrat on the Banking Committee, said on CNBC.

Corker suggested that the bill, the subject of months of negotiations by Dodd and members of his committee, needed a new environment.

"It's probably true that we have a better opportunity with a different cast of characters, the full Senate, to do something that is sound policy-wise," he said.

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