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Bipartisan Senate Deal Near On Financial Regulation

Can we afford to put bipartisan compromise with these people over actual and effective financial regulation reform? Pardon my cynicism, but it looks

Can we afford to put bipartisan compromise with these people over actual and effective financial regulation reform? Pardon my cynicism, but it looks like we won't have much of a choice:

Key members of both parties said Wednesday that they are close to agreeing on the main elements of a bill to overhaul the nation's financial regulations, raising the prospect that the Senate could begin formal discussion of the landmark legislation early next week.

"I'm more optimistic than I've ever been," said Sen. Richard C. Shelby (Ala.), the lead Republican negotiator. "I think we can put a bill together pretty soon." His counterpart in months of talks, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the banking committee, agreed that they were on the cusp of a consensus.

If no last-minute hurdles arise, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) plans to hold a test vote Monday, aides said. If he gets 60 or more votes, he could move ahead with formal debate on the bill, which among other things would create an agency to protect consumers against abuses in mortgages and other loans, set up a council of regulators to watch for risks to the financial system, and give the government power to wind down large, troubled financial firms.

The likely emergence of a bipartisan consensus is a notable departure from the fractious debate over health-care legislation, which passed last month without a single Republican vote. This time, some Republicans say they are looking forward to supporting the financial bill, which arose out of an economic crisis that has left millions of Americans angry and bereft of their jobs, homes and savings.

With both parties eager to claim that they are tackling financial excesses, Republicans have been focusing their objections on specific tenets of the legislation rather than on its overall thrust, allowing for more compromise.

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