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After more than a week of debate, the U.S. Senate today approved legislation that would enact sweeping credit card reforms. The Senate's 90-to-5 vote makes it likely President Obama will meet his self-imposed Memorial Day deadline to sign the legislation; 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 scheduled to go into effect in mid-2010. The Senate bill would require implementation nine months after being signed, or as soon as February next year if Obama signs it this month. Similar federal regulations approved in December were scheduled to take effect in July 2010. The bill, sponsored by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., 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. The bill's passage was delayed temporarily today in part over concerns that Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, raised 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 repository institutions. Crapo has sought a fix ever since to exempt banks from FTC oversight. In a brief interview before 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, further legislation would be necessary to exempt operating subsidiaries and nonbanks, he said. The bill the Senate agreed to today 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 before the vote. The revised bill toughens restrictions on college student credit offerings, including affinity cards banks offer that bear college logos.

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