UPDATE 1-Obama urges US senators to support financial reform

* Obama urges Republicans to come back to the table

* President blasts lobbyists for blocking reform
(Adds more quotes, Republican reaction, background)

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON, March 20 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. President Barack
Obama urged lawmakers on Saturday to resist pressure to weaken
a financial reform bill and called again for an independent
consumer watchdog to help prevent future financial crises.

As healthcare reform reaches a make-or-break vote in the
House of Representatives on Sunday, Obama used his weekly radio
and Internet address to highlight what may become his next top
domestic priority: overhauling rules that govern Wall Street.

Obama, who blames lax regulation for helping to spark the
financial crisis, laid out his case for a bill outlined by
Senator Chris Dodd ahead of a debate in the Senate’s Banking
Committee on Monday.

“No one denies that reform is needed. So the question we
have to answer is very simple: will we learn from this crisis,
or will we condemn ourselves to repeat it?” Obama said in the
address. “That’s what’s at stake.”

The bill, which would give the Federal Reserve power to
break up firms that could threaten the stability of the
financial system if they suffered serious problems, faces a
reasonably smooth road at the committee level, where Democrats
have votes to pass the measure without Republican support.

But once it advances to the full Senate, the arithmetic
changes, with Obama’s Democrats controlling only 59 of the 60
votes that will be needed to overcome procedural roadblocks
likely to be thrown up by Republicans.

Obama urged Republicans who had worked with Dodd on
previous versions of the bill to reconsider their decision to
walk away, and he blamed bank and other financial firm
lobbyists for trying to block reform.

“I urge those in the Senate who support these reforms to
remain strong, to resist the pressure from those who would
preserve the status quo, to stand up for their constituents and
our country,” he said.

LASHING OUT

Without naming names, Obama lashed out the opposition party
for using the issue to curry favor with Wall Street bosses.

“In fact, the Republican leader in the House reportedly met
with a top executive of one of America’s largest banks and made
thwarting reform a key part of his party’s pitch for campaign
contributions,” Obama said.

House Republican Leader John Boehner told hundreds of
bankers at a conference earlier this week to be tough when
lobbying against reform on Capitol Hill.

“A spokesman for Boehner said the Republican had not made
opposing reform part of a pitch to get campaign donations.

“Once again, Washington Democrats are offering partisan
jabs rather than solutions,” the spokesman said.

Under Dodd’s bill, the Fed — the U.S. central bank —
would gain authority over the nation’s largest bank-holding
companies and become the home to a new consumer watchdog with
oversight of mortgage-related businesses and some large
non-bank financial companies, such as insurers.

Obama has made the independence of the consumer agency a
top priority.

“I won’t accept any attempts to undermine the independence
of this agency,” he said.

“And I won’t accept efforts to create loopholes for the
most egregious abusers of consumers, from payday lenders to
auto finance companies to credit card companies.”

Obama said he was a “vigorous defender” of free markets and
supported having a vibrant financial sector to give loans to
businesses and citizens.

“But what we have seen over the past two years is that
without reasonable and clear rules to check abuse and protect
families, markets don’t function freely,” he said.

“In the absence of such rules, our financial markets spun
out of control, credit markets froze, and our economy nearly
plummeted into a second Great Depression.”

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(Editing by Peter Cooney)

UPDATE 1-Obama urges US senators to support financial reform