U.S. Senate Democrats on Wednesday postponed until mid-July a final vote on a landmark overhaul of financial regulations as they scrambled for crucial support from a handful of moderate Republicans.
The House of Representatives, however, was on track to approve the bill by late afternoon or early evening after it cleared a procedural hurdle by a vote of 234 to 189.
The death of Democratic Senator Robert Byrd and cold feet among Republican allies has complicated efforts to round up the needed votes in the Senate and dashed Democratic hopes that a bill could be sent to President Barack Obama to sign into law by the July 4 Independence Day holiday.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said the chamber wouldn't vote until it returns from a weeklong break.
Byrd's death left Democrats one vote shy of the 60 needed to overcome procedural hurdles in the 100-seat chamber, and his funeral arrangements were expected to prevent legislative action for much of Thursday and Friday.
Democrats have yet to nail down support from Republican moderates whose votes will be needed to advance the bill.
Those Republicans -- Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Scott Brown -- had voted for an earlier version, but they objected to a $17.9 billion tax on large financial institutions that was added last week to cover the bill's costs.
Democrats stripped out the tax in a last-minute negotiating session on Tuesday to address their concern. All three moderates said they were still studying the final bill before deciding how to vote.
Collins said she was inclined to support it, while Snowe said it was a possibility that she could vote for it.
We're just trying to work it out and I am sure we will be able to, but it's important to get it right, Snowe said.
Brown, who won significant concessions earlier in the process, also declined to say how he would vote.
It's morphed into something different than it began with and I think it's appropriate to read it, he said of the 2,000-plus page bill.
Democrats could also pick up needed support from their side of the aisle. Maria Cantwell, one of two Democrats who voted against the bill earlier on the grounds that it was not tough enough, said she might reconsider her position.
NOT PERFECT FOR ANYBODY
Democrat Christopher Dodd, the bill's chief advocate in the Senate, said lawmakers should not vote against it just because they don't like one or two elements.
No one's going to get everything they want in this bill, I certainly didn't, he said. I've done everything I know how to do to accommodate my colleagues to make this as fair, as balanced, as thoughtful as I possibly could.
The White House said it was confident there will be enough votes for the Senate to pass the most sweeping rewrite of Wall Street rules since the 1930s. Analysts said it was a question of when, not if, the bill would pass.
The delay in the Senate means several more weeks of uncertainty for the financial industry, which is bracing for tighter regulations, tougher oversight and diminished profits.
The bill, which aims to prevent a repeat of the 2007-2009 financial crisis that shook the global economy, is a top priority for Obama and would give him and fellow Democrats a big legislative win ahead of November congressional elections.
It would force banks to reduce, but not cease, risky trading and investing activities, set up a new government process for liquidating troubled financial firms and establish a new consumer-protection bureau.
Wall Street and many Republicans tried to water down the bill, but it grew stronger during its year-long journey through Congress with Democrats riding a wave of public disgust at an industry that has awarded itself fat paydays while the rest of the country struggled with high unemployment.
Obama on Wednesday accused Republicans of being out of touch with the American people for opposing Wall Street reforms.
Although the Democrats' removal on Tuesday of the $17.9 billion tax on banks appeared to be winning support from some moderate Republicans, the mechanism turned to as an alternative to fund the bill's new consumer protections and other programs is not without political risks.
Democrats decided to tap $11 billion in taxpayer funds from the unpopular Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, and raise the amount larger banks must pay to insure their customers' deposits to bring in more money.
Republicans involved in the negotiations said the money from TARP, the $700 billion bank bailout program, should be used to pay down the national debt.
The White House says the bill would actually reduce the deficit by $3.2 billion by shutting down TARP ahead of schedule.
Even after Obama signs the bill into law, its final impact will remain unclear for several years while regulators work to put it into effect. Congress also could pass another bill to fix technical mistakes in the legislative language, said an aide to Representative Barney Frank.
(Additional reporting by Kevin Drawbaugh, Rachelle Younglai and Donna Smith; Editing by Leslie Adler)