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Conferees to Meet at 5 p.m. to Tweak Wall Street Bill

Updated: 4:01 p.m.

House and Senate conferees are headed back to the negotiating table on the massive financial regulatory reform overhaul as they seek to secure enough votes to overcome a likely filibuster in the Senate.

Conferees are expected to meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday to eliminate a $19 billion bank and hedge fund tax that was added in conference but is opposed by the handful of one-time Senate Republican supporters of the bill.

Instead, Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said Democrats would make up the shortfall by putting an end to $700 billion the financial industry bailout fund and raising fees on large banks that pay into the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which insures bank deposits.

Though Republicans such as Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe said talks “look positive,” Dodd still must convince one Democrat or Republican who opposed the bill last month to switch positions. Even if Dodd shores up the votes of the three Republicans who helped him beat back a filibuster of the Senate version of the bill, the death Monday of 92-year-old Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) leaves Dodd one vote short of the 60 needed to kill another attempted filibuster.

“Obviously I’m talking to a lot of offices and a lot of people to find out where that spot is that will get us to where we need to be going,” Dodd told reporters Tuesday. “We’re very, very close and my hope is we can do it.”

Two Democrats — Sens. Maria Cantwell (Wash.) and Russ Feingold (Wis.) — voted against the bill. However, House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said Tuesday that Dodd has told him Cantwell may switch her vote to “yes.” A Cantwell spokesman would only say that she is reviewing the conference report.

Frank said Tuesday he hoped the House would vote Wednesday on the reworked conference report and said the Senate likely would follow later in the week.

Of course that schedule rests on whether Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) is indeed on board with a tweaked bill. It also may hinge on when West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) appoints a replacement for Byrd, who would have provided Democrats a critical vote on the measure.

Kathleen Hunter contributed to this report.

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