Declaring them “the strongest consumer financial protections in history,” President Barack Obama signed into law his second major legislative victory Wednesday, enacting a 2,300-page bill that rewrites the rules of Wall Street and bolsters consumer protections against risky loans, hidden fees and high-interest credit cards.
The Wall Street reform bill "demands accountability and responsibility from everyone," the president said in the ampitheater of the Ronald Reagan Building just a few blocks from the White House.
“It provides certainty to everybody from bankers to farmers to business owners. And unless your business model depends on cutting corners or bilking your customers, you have nothing to fear from this reform."
Joined onstage by two Americans who have fallen on hard times, the president championed the reforms benefiting the lives of everyday people dealing with credit cards, mortgages and student loans.
The reforms “will be enforced by a new consumer watchdog with just one job: looking out for people – not big banks, not lenders, not investment houses — in the financial system,” Obama said. “Now, that’s not just good for consumers; that’s good for the economy."
The Senate voted to pass the bill along party lines, with just three Republicans — Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine — voting for it. The president said the three “put partisanship aside, judged this bill on the merits, and voted for reform."
Though the law will add to Obama’s list of first-term accomplishments, including health care reform and the $787 billion stimulus package, the President made sure to share the credit.
He praised House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) for working "day and night" to ensure the bill made it through Congress — a compliment that triggered a minute-long standing ovation — and he thanked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who pushed the bill past unified Republican opposition and fierce lobbying by the financial industry.
"I am profoundly grateful to them," he said. “Passing this bill was no easy task.”
As the nation nears the second anniversary of the economic meltdown, Obama acknowledged that the reforms are just one step on the long road to financial recovery. As the recession drags on, his administration continues to try and spur sluggish growth and unemployment levels that hover around 10 percent.
Still, Obama said, “beyond the consumer protections I’ve outlined, reform will also rein in the abuse and excess that nearly brought down our financial system” and trigged the deep recession. "It was a crisis born of a failure of responsibility from certain corners of Wall Street to the halls of power in Washington," he said. "For years, our financial sector was governed by antiquated and poorly enforced rules that allowed some to game the system and take risks that endangered the entire economy."
The American people, he said, “will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s mistakes. There will be no more taxpayer-funded bailouts. Period. If a large financial institution should ever fail, this reform gives us the ability to wind it down without endangering the broader economy. And there will be new rules to make clear that no firm is somehow protected because it is ‘too big to fail’” forcing a government rescue.