Merkley in thick of new congressional battle over financial regulation

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., was shepherding Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., around Portland Monday to talk up legislation that seeks to prevent “abusive financial practices” by forming a Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

You’re not hearing much about this now, overshadowed as it is by the congressional battle over health care.  But it could start to take center stage later this year as Dodd tries to move a bill out of committee.

The financial industry and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are vigorously fighting it, and you hear some chatter on conservative blogs.  One called it “another effort by [President] Obama to take control of a significant portion of the economy.”

Merkley and Dodd said they’re just trying to look out for consumers. They met at Portland State University with a selected group of people with stories to tell about how they’ve been affected by the financial collapse.  Bob and Martha Barney of Milwaukie, for example, told how they got lured into a mortgage they said wasn’t what they had been told it would be.  Now they owe far more than their home is worth and they’re worried it will destroy their credit.

“These are problems millions of Americans face every day,” said Dodd, lamenting that that current regulatory agencies are more focused on protecting the soundness of banks and other financial institutions than in protecting consumers.

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