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Senate to vote on financial reform Thursday

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is planning a final vote Thursday morning on a sweeping overhaul of financial regulations.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is planning a final vote Thursday morning on a sweeping overhaul of financial regulations. Passage in the Senate would send the bill to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Reid announced the timing Tuesday after votes to ensure its passage fell into place. At least three Republicans, 55 Democrats and two independents are expected to support the bill. That would provide the 60 votes needed to overcome Republican procedural hurdles.

Conservative Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska said Tuesday he will vote for the bill, giving it the 60 votes needed to advance in the Senate.

The legislation is one of Obama's top legislative initiatives. Democrats and the White House had hoped for passage before July 4, but met with concerns from some key senators.

Earlier Tuesday, Obama said he was grateful three Republican senators have "put politics and partisanship aside" and have decided to support legislation to overhaul the financial regulatory system.

Obama says the legislation will prevent another financial crisis and will be good for the entire country and the economy. He urged the Senate to act quickly and send him the bill so he can sign it into law next week. The House passed the bill last month.

"This reform is good for families, it is good for businesses , it's good for the entire economy," Obama said as he announced his nomination of Jacob Lew to be the new director of the White House budget office.

The 2,300-page bill aims to address regulatory weaknesses blamed for the 2008 financial crisis that fueled the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Nelson, who voted for a Senate version of the bill, surprised Democratic leaders Monday by voicing concerns about the legislation.

He voiced his misgivings the same day that two Republicans — Sens. Olympia Snowe of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts — announced their support for the bill. A third Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, had already indicated she would back the bill.

Nelson's vote is crucial because Democrat Russ Feingold of Wisconsin has said he will vote against the legislation. The death of Sen. Robert Byrd has left a vacancy in the Democratic ranks.

That means the three Republican supporters, 55 Democrats, and two independents add up to the precise number of votes needed to beat back potentially fatal procedural votes.

"It is in America's best interests that risks to our financial system are identified and addressed before they threaten our nation's financial stability again," Nelson said in a statement. "This bill will restore accountability and confidence in our financial system."