Harkin Has Some Reservations About CFTC Nominee

Possible merger of CFTC with SEC still being studied.

Senate Agriculture Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and ranking member Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., have indicated a possible split over President Obama's nomination of Gary Gensler to chair the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which has come under criticism for lax regulation.

Harkin met with Gensler Thursday and characterized their talk as "productive and thorough," adding that both agreed on the need for strong financial-market regulation. However, he said that he remains "concerned about the deregulatory orientation in this nominee's past" and will take up the issue at his nomination hearing.

Chambliss also met with Gensler and "believes he is a good choice for the post," according to a spokeswoman. Harkin said he would hold a confirmation hearing soon but has not scheduled it.

Congress is expected to consider major CFTC regulatory changes, including a possible merger with the SEC. Harkin and House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., have introduced somewhat competing bills to stiffen CFTC regulation. Peterson has said he hopes to get his bill through the House by the Presidents Day recess. Peterson strongly opposes a CFTC-SEC merger because the SEC would not pay enough attention to agricultural commodities, while Harkin has said he does not yet have a position on the merger issue.

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