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Published: Tuesday, 7/13/2010

Nebraska Sen. Nelson ensures 60 votes for bank regulation bill


WASHINGTON — All but clearing the way for passage of financial regulations, conservative Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska said Tuesday he will vote for the sweeping overhaul of banking.

His support ensures the legislation now has 60 votes to clear the Senate and land on President Barack Obama's desk for his signature. The House passed the bill last month.

Obama on Tuesday urged the Senate to act quickly and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he wants to complete the bill this week.

“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.”

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