President Obama said Tuesday he believed the financial regulatory overhaul, which both houses of Congress are expected to vote on in the coming days, would pass.
The president made the remarks after an economic briefing in the Oval Office also attended by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and economic aides Christina Romer, Larry Summers, Peter Orszag, Jared Bernstein.
The passing of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), who supported the bill, has called into question Majority Leader Harry Reid's ability to muster the 60 votes needed to pass it in the Senate. But when asked about the impact Byrd's death could have on the legislation, the president said that was not his concern.
"I'm concerned about fact that a giant of Senate and a personal friend of mine passed away," Obama said. "I don't think about that in the context of financial regulatory reform. I'm confident that given the package that has been put together that senators, hopefully on both sides of aisle, recognize it's time to put in place rules that prevent taxpayer bailouts and make sure that we don't have a financial crisis that can tank the economy and I think there's going to be enough interest in moving reform forward that we're going to get this done."
The president went on to call Byrd's career "unparalleled" and said he helped to transform the Senate. He said that Byrd's own personal transformation embodied the kind of changes in America "that have made us more equal, more just, more fair." Byrd was a one-time a member of the Ku Klux Klan and an opponent of civil rights, but later apologized for both actions.
"He will be sorely missed," Obama said of the man who entered the Senate in 1959, two years before the president was born.
Obama said the economy was strengthening, led by sectors like manufacturing, but that economic troubles in Europe had led to skittishness on the part of markets and investors and that more must be done to put people back to work, get credit flowing to small businesses and strengthen consumer confidence. He hailed his economic team and the relevant committee chairmen Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) for their work on the revamp of the financial regulatory system and said that, in addition to other important changes, completion of the overhaul would provide certainty to markets about how the government would prevent a crisis like this from happening again.
After the president's statement, Bernanke spoke briefly, saying that the briefing had also covered how what has been happening around the world could affect the United States.
A debt crisis in Greece has sent ripples through several European economies, including Spain and Ireland, potentially threatening the global economic recovery.