WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is heading to New York City later this week to push for a financial overhaul package in a venue rich with presidential history.
The speech Thursday at Cooper Union in Manhattan comes as a Senate showdown looms on a package of new regulations that Republicans have so far unanimously opposed.
Over the weekend, GOP leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urged top Democrats to go back to the drawing board and assemble a package that can win bipartisan support. But Democrats accused McConnell and others of helping big banks fend off needed regulation.
"By filibustering it – stopping it – we leave the American public vulnerable once again to the kind of shenanigans that have occurred in large financial institutions," said Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Dodd said he's expecting his package will be on the Senate floor Wednesday or Thursday. He added he's still open to GOP ideas, but "the talking is almost over, and now we need to move."
Announcing the Cooper Union speech Monday, nearly two years since the financial market meltdown, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama wants to "remind Americans what is at stake" if the rules of the road on Wall Street remain unchanged.
In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama said, "Every day we don't act, the same system that led to bailouts remains in place, with the exact same loopholes and the exact same liabilities. And if we don't change what led to the crisis, we'll doom ourselves to repeat it."
But Republicans contend the Democratic plan would encourage big Wall Street banks to expect another bailout by establishing a fund to help unwind any that fail. Democrats counter the $50 billion fund would be paid for by the banks, and would lead to bankruptcy, not rescue.
Obama first spoke at Cooper Union as a candidate in March 2008 – attacking lax regulatory practices he said had allowed the likes of Enron and WorldCom to "push the envelope, pump up earnings, disguise losses and otherwise engage in accounting fraud."
The 151-year-old college has also seen memorable speeches by candidates Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, as well as sitting Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Bill Clinton.
Eight months ago, Obama delivered his prescription for regulatory reform at Federal Hall, opposite the New York Stock Exchange, appealing to Wall Street executives to help – not hinder – the drafting of rules to avoid another market collapse.
"It is neither right nor responsible after you've recovered with the help of your government to shirk your obligation to the goal of wider recovery, a more stable system, and a more broadly shared prosperity," he said then.
(This version CORRECTS UPDATES with Democrats' plans in Senate; corrects that Federal Hall speech was last September, rather than a year ago.)