WASHINGTON — Senate lawmakers Wednesday reached a bipartisan deal on how to wind down faltering financial firms, clearing the way for first votes on amendments to financial overhaul legislation.

The Senate will vote on the deal Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said as he announced the final deal. The Senate is also expected to vote on an amendment offered by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., intended to ensure that taxpayer dollars are never put at risk to prop up a failing financial firm.

The deal on so-called "too big to fail" firms marks an important step forward for the Obama administration's top domestic priority.

Dodd, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the panel's top Republican, had reached an agreement in principle on the issue last Wednesday. As part of that agreement, Democrats agreed to drop a GOP-authored provision for a $50 billion fund to help pay for liquidation costs.

Finalizing the deal, however, proved difficult. The two senators and their staff worked for days to iron out the legislative language, arguing into the early hours of Wednesday morning on specific word choice even for provisions where the two sides are in complete agreement.

Republicans have insisted the broader debate on the bill to boost consumer protections, enhance the government's ability to identify systemic market risks, and regulate the derivatives markets cannot proceed until the deal is complete.

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