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Optimistic Ellison says House will support new consumer agency

WASHINGTON, D. C. — Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., expressed optimism today that the U.S.

WASHINGTON, D. C. — Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., expressed optimism today that the U.S. House would pass pending legislation aimed at creating a new agency to protect consumers of financial products.

“My expectation is that we will go into the markup with the proposal that is already out there,” the 5th District congressman said, adding that he believed it would remain largely intact, despite lobbying from the financial industry.

“If you look at the vote on the credit card bill of rights, we got a substantial number of Republicans and [almost] all the Democrats on that,” Ellison said during a teleconference Thursday with reporters and National Economic Council Deputy Director Diana Farrell.

Among other things, the current bill would establish a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which would have the authority to enforce such rules as making sure contracts are more understandable and raising standards for brokers and investment professionals. The legislation would also create a council to evaluate risk across the system.

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“In truth, we have precious little regulation to protect consumers [of financial products],” said Farrell.
In this way, Ellison said that the legislation would “improve our economy by making it more transparent and making it more accessible to the consumer by leveling the playing field.”

The bill, however, may face more difficulties in the Senate where a leadership shakeup following Sen. Ted Kennedy’s death could leave Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., as head of the Senate Banking Committee. Johnson was the only Senate Democrat to vote against the sweeping credit card reform bill that passed earlier this year. He has long been an advocate for the industry, which is important to his state’s economy.

But, on Thursday, Farrell remained confident of the legislation’s ability to pass.

“From the very beginning, back … when the president was in discussion with both the leadership in the House and Senate, the leaders in both the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee, [they] were unequivocal in their support to pursue this agenda,” Farrell said.

“While it is certainly not going to be easy,” Farrell added. “We think that there is enough support.”