The broadest overhaul of financial rules since the Great Depression was on its way to becoming law on Thursday after it cleared a crucial hurdle in Congress.

By a vote of 60 to 38, backers barely cleared a Republican roadblock in the Senate, setting up a final series of votes for 2 p.m. Final passage looks assured.

We're on the cusp of victory, Democratic Senator Jack Reed said at a news conference. This bill is going to be passed.

President Barack Obama, who proposed reforms more than a year ago, has said he wants to sign the measure into law next week.

The House of Representatives has already approved the bill, which tightens regulation across the financial industry in an effort to avoid a repeat of the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

The legislation would establish new consumer protections, give regulators greater power to dismantle troubled firms, and limit a range of risky trading activities in a way that would curb bank profits.

With Republicans poised for big gains in the November congressional elections, Democrats are eager to show voters that they are cracking down on an industry that dragged the economy into its deepest recession in 70 years.

I regret I can't give you your job back, restore that foreclosed home, put retirement monies back in your account, said Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, one of the bill's chief authors. What I can do is to see to it that we never, ever again go through what this nation has been through.

It is not clear whether voters will give Democrats credit.

The public's awareness and understanding of financial regulation is very low, according to an Ipsos online poll released on Thursday.

Of those polled, 38 percent had never heard of the reform, while 33 percent had heard of it but know nothing about the legislation. Other polls show the public divided about its merits.

The bill has also won Democrats few friends on Wall Street as wealthy donors have started to steer more campaign contributions to Republicans.

On Wall Street, the news on the bill failed to draw any reaction. Investors said the passage of the bill was already priced into banks' share prices. Bank stocks have followed the overall market lower since April, weighed down by poor U.S. economic data and the belief that more regulation could crimp profits down the road.


The Dodd-Frank bill, named for Dodd and Representative Barney Frank, its chief author in the House, leaves few corners of the financial industry untouched.

Mortgage brokers, student lenders and other financial firms would have to answer to a new consumer-protection authority, though auto dealers will escape scrutiny.

Regulators, who scrambled to contain the damage from failing firms like Lehman Brothers in the last crisis, would have new authority to dismantle troubled firms if they threaten the broader economy.

A council of regulators would monitor big-picture risks that regulators missed ahead of the past crisis.

Large banks would face new limits on risky trading activities, and many would have to set aside more capital to help them ride out times of crisis.

Large private-equity and hedge funds will face more scrutiny from federal regulators, and credit-rating agencies could potentially see their entire business model upended.

Much of the $615 trillion over-the-counter derivatives market will be routed through more accountable and transparent channels, and banks would have to spin off the riskiest of their swaps clearing desk operations.

Wall Street deployed an army of lobbyists to derail or weaken the bill, but they were undermined by the industry's tone-deaf decision to award fat bonuses to executives only months after the government put up $700 billion in bailout funds.


In the Senate, three moderate Republicans joined 55 Democrats and two independents to back the measure.

Most Republicans argued the bill is an intrusive overreach that fails to address problems in the housing market that spurred the crisis.

The administration and its Democrat allies in Congress have taken a crisis and used it, rather than solving it, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said.

But as the measure moves closer to becoming law, a new criticism has emerged: the 2,300-page bill is not specific enough.

Even after Obama signs the measure into law, financial firms will face years of uncertainty as regulators put it into effect.

Financial firms are likely to curtail their lending until they see how they will be affected by the bill's 533 new regulations, 60 studies and 94 reports, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The whole sector will be years trying to react to the solidifying of whatever the rules are, said Linda Duessel, market strategist at Federated Investors in Pittsburgh.

The U.S. Treasury, which would head the council of regulators and temporarily direct the new consumer protection agency, has already begun a rigorous planning process in an effort to swiftly implement reforms, the Treasury's No. 2 official told an industry group in New York.

That work cannot be done overnight. It will take time, Deputy Treasury Secretary Neil Wolin said. But we are prepared to move on to the next stage with speed.

The uncertainty factor even gives pause to groups that pushed for a tougher bill, as they worry that regulators may be swayed by industry lobbying.

I will believe reform is here when I see it, said John Taylor, head of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

Dodd said it will be up to the Obama administration to ensure that the bill's promised reforms actually take effect.

(Additional reporting by Kevin Drawbaugh; Richard Cowan and David Lawder in Washington; and Matthew Lynley, Leah Schnurr, Chuck Mikolajczak in New York; editing by Leslie Adler)