Senate votes to loosen key Dodd-Frank banking regulations

Activists rally against plans to loosen Wall Street regulations and repeal the Dodd-Frank Act outside of Goldman Sachs headquarters New York on February 7, 2017 (AFP Photo/Drew Angerer) (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File)
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Washington (AFP) - The US Senate voted Wednesday to ease banking regulations enacted after the financial crisis that were aimed at protecting taxpayers from fresh economic trauma and new bank bailouts.

In a show of bipartisan support, the upper chamber of Congress voted 67 to 31 in favor of easing some of the regulatory scrutiny imposed on banks in the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, while leaving key elements of the law in place.

The measure must now go to the House before it can reach President Donald Trump's desk.

The White House quickly praised the Senate passage of the bill, which it said shields financial institutions from "excessive regulation."

"The bill provides much-needed relief from the Dodd-Frank Act for thousands of community banks and credit unions and will spur lending and economic growth without creating risks to the financial system," press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

The Senate vote came 10 years to the day after the collapse of New York-based investment bank Bear Stearns, an action widely seen as marking the beginning of the financial crisis that rocked the global economy.

Democrats were split on the bill, with liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren leading the charge against it and branding the legislation a gift to Wall Street.

Instead of passing what she decried as the "Bank Lobbyist Act," Congress "should be marking the tenth anniversary of the financial crisis by strengthening rules on banks and bankers so Wall Street can never again get away with cheating Americans and crashing the economy," Warren said in a statement.

Supporters applauded the bill for freeing smaller banks and credit unions from onerous regulations aimed at reining in major financial institutions swept up in the financial crisis, and allowing them to focus on community lending.

"Passage of this bill is a big win for Main Street in rural America and our families, farmers, and small businesses," said Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat who is up for re-election this year in North Dakota, a state Trump won overwhelmingly in his 2016 presidential race.

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