WASHINGTON — The Senate has passed a bill that would direct the Government Accountability Office to examine the economic benefits large banks receive for being "too big to fail."

The bill, sponsored by Sens. David Vitter, R-La., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, passed by unanimous consent late Friday evening. The lawmakers had indicated they would push for the measure earlier this week.

Under the bill, the GAO would be directed to complete a study examining whether the country's largest institutions receive favorable debt pricing or other financial benefits because investors believe they will be bailed out during a crisis. The agency will also look at the economic benefits of the 2008 bailouts and existing government safety nets.

The Dodd-Frank reform law contains a number of provisions designed to end "too big to fail," laying out how the government should deal with failing institutions. But critics, including Vitter and Brown, have argued that the provisions don't solve the problem.

The bill has not been taken up by the House, and it is unclear whether it will be prior to yearend.

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