The president’s much-hyped visit to New York to address financial-regulation reform (the visit that our own mayor didn’t know was happening until he read about it on “the blogs”) begins tomorrow. The centerpiece of the trip is a speech that will be held at Cooper Union, which is symbolic not only for being within two miles of Wall Street, but also for echoing a formative speech at the very same site by Abraham Lincoln in 1860 as he was building up his presidential candidacy. According to White House Spokesman Robert GIbbs, the president will demand that the Senate speed up action on regulation reform, “almost two years after the crisis hit and almost one year after the administration first laid out a detailed plan for holding Wall Street accountable and protecting consumers.”
He enters a city whose politicians are divided over the issue. Billionaire Mayor Bloomberg has been a vocal opponent of many of the new regulations. “I just find it sort of ironic that congressmen, senators who make more than double what the average person working in finance makes — they’re the rich ones and they’re talking about trying to restrict bonuses and taxing the industries that are our lifeblood,” he said back in January. “Maybe we should hold back their salaries for a decade or so and see whether the laws they pass work out.” New York senior senator Charles Schumer, on the other hand, has come out staunchly in favor of strong reforms, to the irritation of Wall Street supporters who have given him millions over the past twenty years (according to Politico, the two are getting pretty publicly upset with one another over the issue).
Currently, Republicans are resisting financial-regulation reform, which most Americans support. They’ve threatened a filibuster if Democratic leadership does not reach some compromises they’ve requested, though Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has softened his tone in recent days. A key bone of contention is a $50 billion fund paid for by large banks in preparation for any emergency dissolving of a failed bank. Some Republicans call this a “bailout fund,” but Democratic Senate Banking Chair Chris Dodd says the fund was a Republican idea, and it looks like his party leadership is ready to compromise on it in order to garner bi-partisan support. Obama’s speech in New York, which could very well inflame tempers down on nearby Wall Street, seems like it actually is coming at a time when level heads are beginning to prevail in Washington.