The next phase of the financial reform debate opened on Thursday in Congress as Democrats worked to divide Republicans and break off just enough support to get a bill moving in the Senate.

Having won approval at the committee level on Monday for tighter bank and capital market oversight, Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd now needs a handful of Republicans to back his bill so it can overcome procedural roadblocks.

According to congressional aides, that will mean striking a balance between compromise and cooperation with Republicans who are willing to negotiate with him in a delicate process that is expected to continue for a week or two.

Dodd told reporters on Thursday that his prospects had been boosted by Democrats' victory this week on healthcare reform.

The healthcare thing kind of changed the atmospherics around here, said the Senate banking committee chairman.

He said Republicans who were frustrated by their party's broad obstructionism on a range of issues would be emboldened by that approach's evident failure in the healthcare fight.

A number of Republicans went along with the strategy of just saying no, but were never happy with it, Dodd said.

If it worked, they would go along. But they saw it fail and now they've had enough of it and they really want to be involved in crafting things, he said.

That was the message Democrats were voicing across Capitol Hill as they refocused with gusto on the long-delayed financial regulation overhaul initiative, which has cast a cloud of uncertainty for months over the financial services sector.

As we go forward, we will see if the Republicans are willing to reform Wall Street, said House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi at her weekly news conference. If they don't want to regulate Wall Street, we do and we will. We hope it will be bipartisan ... We must have regulatory reform.

Democrats, who control only 59 votes in the 100-member Senate, will likely need 60 to overcome procedural hurdles that Republicans routinely throw in the way of major legislation.


A national poll released on Thursday said 59 percent of Americans want Congress and the president to reform the financial system now.

Half of the 1,000 people surveyed said they would feel more favorable toward their member of Congress if he or she voted in favor of tighter oversight of financial firms.

The Pew Financial Reform Project said the March 4-8 survey was conducted by a bipartisan team questioning people who were highly likely to vote in 2010.

Democrats are gambling that poll results such as these will convince Republicans to put some distance between themselves and an army of bank and Wall Street lobbyists working to weaken and kill reform measures that threaten bank profits.

President Barack Obama signed healthcare reform into law this week after it was approved by Congress over the objections of Republicans who fought for months to block it.

So far, Republicans have pursued a similar strategy on financial reform, siding with the lobbyists in criticizing most reforms as unneeded and costly government intrusions on the private sector that could crimp credit supply.

Dodd scored a win on Monday, when his committee approved his reform bill by a 13-10 vote, with all Republicans opposed.

Republican Senator Bob Corker -- who earlier had tried but failed to reach a bipartisan agreement with Dodd -- said after the vote that Republicans had erred in deciding at the last minute not to try to amend the measure in committee.

On Corker's frustration with his party's strategy, Dodd said: People like him and others are tired of being told, 'Just say no to everything.' You don't come here to do that.