WASHINGTON — After more than a week of debate, the Senate approved legislation on Tuesday that would enact sweeping credit card reform.
The Senate's 90 to 5 vote makes it likely President Obama will meet his self-imposed Memorial Day deadline to sign the legislation as the House tentatively plans to follow suit and approve the bill as soon as Wednesday.
The legislation would codify in law and speed enactment of federal regulations that were scheduled to go into effect in mid-2010. The Senate bill would require implementation nine months after the bill is signed.
The bill, sponsored by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, largely bans card issuers' ability to increase rates on existing balances. It also clamps down on fees by requiring card companies to get customers' permission before charging them over-the-limit fees, among other restrictions.
Senate passage Tuesday was delayed temporarily in part over concerns raised by Sen. Mike Crapo regarding an unrelated provision adopted earlier this year in the economic stimulus that would let the Federal Trade Commission enforce Truth in Lending Act violations of depository institutions. Sen. Crapo has sought a fix ever since to exempt banks from FTC oversight.
In a brief interview ahead of the vote Crapo said his concerns were "partially" addressed, by carving out depository institutions, which was enough for him to agree to let the Senate proceed with a vote.
Still, he said further legislation would be necessary to exempt operating subsidiaries and non-banks.
The bill the Senate agreed to Tuesday incorporated several changes requested by fellow senators and House leaders that Dodd and Sen. Richard Shelby, the panel's top Republican, reached agreement on just ahead of the vote.
The revised bill toughened restrictions on college student credit offerings, including affinity cards offerd by banks that bear college logos.