Factbox: Key Washington players in Wall Street reform fight

A series of decisive votes on amendments, preceded by substantive debates, has resulted in an unusual display of effective legislating by a chamber more accustomed in recent months to partisan bickering and procedural gridlock.

Party leaders -- Democrat Harry Reid and Republican Mitch McConnell -- have been instrumental in setting the stage for the Senate's steady, if slow, progress on the issue.

Final approval of a bill is expected as soon as this week.

The following are snapshots of key players in the struggle over tightening bank and capital market rules:

Christopher Dodd, Senate Banking Committee Chairman

The silver-tongued, snowy-haired Connecticut Democrat is managing the bill, shuttling between the Senate floor and private offices on Capitol Hill for meetings with colleagues clamoring for attention for nearly 300 amendments.

The son of a senator, Dodd, 65, first won election to the House of Representatives in 1974. He went to the Senate in 1980 and was reelected four times. The past two years were tough, however, and in January he said he would not seek reelection.

If he can get his Wall Street reform bill through the fractured Senate, he will notch a major achievement going into retirement, book-ending his role in passing healthcare reform.

Harry Reid, Senate Democratic Leader

Facing a tough reelection challenge at home in Nevada, Reid, 70, is pushing hard for passage of President Barack Obama's and the Democrats' bill on financial reform.

A former boxer and Capitol Police officer, Reid practiced law in his home state before winning election to the state assembly and then becoming lieutenant governor. He was elected to the House in 1982 and the Senate in 1986.

Mitch Mcconnell, Senate Republican Leader

The patrician senior senator from Kentucky is a career politician and lawyer, having worked as an aide on Capitol Hill before becoming a county judge-executive and then a senator in 1984.

McConnell, 68, has spoken out against the Democrats' reform bill. He initially tried to block debate on it through a series of procedural maneuvers but then abandoned that strategy, clearing the way for the present debate to get under way.

Richard Shelby, Senate Banking Committee's Top Republican

The patient, cool-headed senior senator from Alabama -- often the tallest man in the room -- holds immense sway over the reform debate, but a tough political climate has seen a series of Republican amendments go down in defeat.

A lawyer with a distinctive Southern drawl, Shelby, 75, was first elected to the House in 1978, as a Democrat. He moved to the Senate in 1986 and switched parties in 1994.

Blanche Lincoln, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman

The senior senator from Arkansas, Lincoln attached to the bill a hard-hitting measure that would require banks to separate their swap-trading desks from their core businesses.

Lincoln, 49, is a self-styled "farmer's daughter," and a former House aide. She was elected to the House in 1992 and the Senate in 1998. She is facing a tough reelection challenge.

Dodd tried to kill her swaps provision, but then backed off after Lincoln vowed she would fight to defend it.

Barack Obama, President

The charismatic U.S. president wants to rein in the financial sector and end decades of deregulation, rising banker bonuses and reckless Wall Street risk-taking blamed for the 2008-09 financial crisis that rocked economies worldwide.

Since unveiling a comprehensive set of reform proposals in mid-2009, he has waited for months for Congress to act.

Barney Frank, House Financial Services Committee Chairman

The Massachusetts Democrat last year emerged as the House's chief architect of Wall Street reform and a key Obama ally.

Frank's short temper and sharp tongue win him few friends on Capitol Hill, but he is both widely feared and respected for his ability as a lawyer, legislator and debater.

He pushed a bill through the House in December that achieved much of the administration's original reform agenda.

If Dodd can get a bill passed in the Senate, Frank, 70, will play a central part in merging the bills.

Paul Volcker, White House Economic Adviser

At 82, the former Federal Reserve chairman is a legend in his own time. Known for vanquishing stagflation during the Carter and Reagan administrations, the 6-foot-7-inch Volcker commands deep bipartisan respect in financial circles.

Obama brought Volcker into the White House as an economic adviser. The two stunned markets in January with a three-part proposal to limit banks' proprietary trading, get them out of the hedge fund business and limit their future growth.

The proposals became known as "the Volcker rule," and Congress is still figuring out what to do about it.

Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve Chairman

The stoic, bearded U.S. central bank chief survived sharp criticism in January of the Fed's failures ahead of the crisis, and won Senate confirmation to a second, four-year term.

Since then, he has had much success in restoring the Fed's image in Congress, where proposals to strip away its bank supervision and consumer protection jobs are fading.

Under Bernanke, a 56-year-old former Princeton University economics professor, the Fed has devoted hundreds of billions of dollars to propping up banks and the housing market.

Timothy Geithner, Treasury Secretary

As President Obama's point man on financial reform, the youthful-looking Treasury secretary dominated the headlines from early to mid-2009, but Congress is now center stage.

Once the reform bill is signed into law by Obama, he and other regulators will play key roles in implementing it.

Sheila Bair, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp Chairman

Popular in Congress and outspoken, the unflappable FDIC chairman is an advocate for tough financial reform and a fierce defender of her agency's turf as a bank supervisor.

She is a self-described moderate Republican, appointed by Bush. Her term expires in 2011. Like Bernanke, Bair was formerly an academic, having also worked at the Treasury Department, the New York Stock Exchange and on Capitol Hill.

Gary Gensler, Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman

A former Treasury undersecretary, Gensler has tried to push Congress, with limited success, toward a firm crackdown on the $615-trillion over-the-counter derivatives market that includes compulsory clearing of over-the-counter derivative contracts.

Mary Schapiro, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman

Like Gensler, Schapiro came aboard last year amid talk that her agency and his might be merged as part of the Obama administration's reform agenda, but that idea was quickly shelved by congressional Democrats as politically impractical.

Since then, Schapiro has been involved in the reform debate, although not as prominently as Geithner and Bernanke.

[Source: Reuters, Washington, 20May10]

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