"Based on what we have been told, preventing a systemic collapse of the capital markets has got to be the No. 1 priority," said R. Bruce Josten, the chamber's vice president for governmental affairs. "This is not the time to add all kinds of extraneous stuff" to the legislation. "This is not the time to make sure it is 100% correct. This is the time to act."
Still, the chamber has advocated for changes in drafts of the legislation. For example, it pushed to get foreign-owned banks included in the bill and fought the most extreme proposals to limit executive pay.
The chamber has also joined with other business groups to oppose language that would let people filing for bankruptcy protection add their home loans to the mix.
Home loans are among the few debts that can't be escaped through bankruptcy, and some in Congress have advocated opening up the bankruptcy rules to include mortgages.
But banks would have an even harder time selling mortgages to investors if there was concern that someone could stop paying on a loan and then hide behind a bankruptcy filing, according to a letter sent Monday to members of Congress by Floyd E. Stoner, an American Bankers Assn. executive.
In addition, the banks are urging Congress to reverse a 25-year-old accounting practice that they think has kept their stock prices low. Companies now must regularly provide investors with a market value for loans and mortgage-backed securities on their books. It's called "mark to market" accounting.
Trouble is, in a down market with few buyers, that value can be elusive. Investors say that if nobody's buying, those values should be marked down, and the share price should suffer. The banks have been pushing to change the rule for decades and now are hoping that Congress will do the work for them.
They also are hoping that the federal government will get out its checkbook for all types of loans, not just those tied up in mortgage-backed securities, and that it will buy loans from small banks as well as large.
This would make sure that massive banks like Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. aren't the only ones that benefit and that struggling regional banks like Downey Financial Corp. are able to clear some bad debt off their books.
The bankers group declined to comment on its lobbying.
To Turner, the former regulator, the proposed legislation is worrisome because so much is decided behind closed doors and transparency is not sufficiently mandated.
"It was the lack of transparency that got us into this mess," he said. "In this proposal, there's not one iota of transparency."
Hamburger reported from Washington, Heisel from Los Angeles.