Published: Jul 21, 2010 11:35 AM EDT
Updated: Jul 21, 2010 8:36 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama aims to usher in a new

era of consumer protections and banking restrictions Wednesday,

checking off another legislative victory just before election-year

politics overtakes the rest of his major agenda.

The president was expected to sign a sweeping overhaul of

financial regulations, a signature achievement that comes nearly

two years after Wall Street's failures knocked the economy into the

worst recession since the Great Depression.

The White House was planning a major signing ceremony featuring

a long list of supporters of the legislation, including former

Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and Robert Diamond, president

of Barclay's PLC.

Obama is going out of his way to spotlight the legislation's

creation of a consumer protection bureau, an effort to make an

otherwise arcane and complex regulatory bill meaningful to the

public and to fend off Republican criticism that it amounts to an

expansion of government.

"These reforms represent the strongest consumer financial

protections in history," the president says in excerpts released

by the White House in advance of his remarks. "And these

protections will be enforced by a new consumer watchdog with just

one job: looking out for people - not big banks, not lenders, not

investment houses in the financial system."

The law also assembles a powerful council of regulators to be on

the lookout for risks across the finance system. It places shadow

financial markets that previously escaped the oversight of

regulators under new scrutiny and gives the government new powers

to break up companies that threaten the economy.

Large, failing financial institutions would be liquidated and

the costs assessed on their surviving peers. Borrowers will be

protected from hidden fees and abusive terms, but also will have to

provide evidence that they can repay their loans. The Federal

Reserve will get new powers while at the same time coming under

expanded congressional oversight.

In an ironic touch, Obama will sign the bill in the massive

Ronald Reagan Building, named after a president who championed

deregulation. Joining him will be scores of consumer advocates,

state and local government officials, business owners and

executives, and members of Congress who supported the bill. Among

those expected to be featured are Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the two committee chairmen who

shepherded the bill through Congress and after whom the bill is

named.

Obama will also be joined by a Maryland Vietnam veteran who was

hit with bank overdraft fees and a Georgia teacher stung by

retroactive interest rate increases on her credit card balance -

two issues the legislation aims to remedy.

Though Obama and his top officials urged Congress to pass the

law while the memory of the 2008 financial meltdown was still

fresh, many of the law's provisions won't take effect for at least

a year as regulators scramble to write new rules and implement

them.

"That will take some time, but it is worth it," Deputy

Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin said Tuesday.

While the bill represents the end of a year's work by Congress

and the administration, Obama has at least one contentious remnant

from the bill to address. He must still nominate a director to the

independent consumer protection bureau, an agency that became one

of the bill's flashpoints and was attacked by Republicans as a

broad expansion of government power over private business.

Among those expected at the signing ceremony is Elizabeth

Warren, the Harvard law professor considered a leading candidate

for the job. Warren is a consumer advocate who was among the first

to propose the idea of a new agency for financial consumers. As

head of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the government's $700

billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, the bank rescue fund known

as TARP, she has periodically clashed with Treasury Secretary

Timothy Geithner.

Liberals and unions have been aggressively pressing for her

appointment. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was among the latest

to weigh in on behalf of Warren, saying Tuesday she is the only

candidate "uniquely qualified and equipped to head this new

agency."

But opposition in the Senate could make her confirmation

difficult, a point Dodd made in a radio interview on NPR Monday.

Also under serious consideration by the White House is assistant

Treasury secretary Michael Barr, one of the architects of the

financial regulation bill and a close ally of some White House

officials. Deputy assistant attorney general Eugene Kimmelman is

also in the running for the slot.