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Financial reform bill another win for Obama, but will the public care?

Following the Recovery Act and health-care reform, the newly approved financial reform bill shows that President Obama is adept at getting his agenda through Congress. But the American public cares about one thing right now: the economy.

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The public relations battle started moments after passage. Thursday afternoon, fresh from an economic speech in Michigan, Obama touted financial reform from the south driveway of the White House – beginning with what the reform means for average Americans. Included are protections to consumers on mortgages, credit cards, and student loans.

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“All told, this reform puts in place the strongest consumer financial protections in history,” Obama said. “And it creates a new consumer watchdog to enforce those protections.”

Speaking of “Wall Street’s mistakes,” Obama also promised that there will be “no more taxpayer-funded bailouts, period."

Republicans reacted just as quickly with a dramatically different take.

“Anyone who claims this bill ends bailouts and too-big-to-fail is simply wrong,” said Rep. Tom Price (R) of Georgia, chairman of the Republican Study Committee. “Washington will now have broad, permanent authority to bail out failing companies with taxpayer money. And Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the insolvent entities still benefiting from the biggest taxpayer bailout of all, are not even addressed.”

Critics also argue that the law will result in tighter credit right when the economy needs credit most. How the law plays out in practice, analysts say, will depend on regulations that have yet to be drafted.