If the Senate approves this proposal -- and Wood is confident it will -- Senate leaders would be bound to join House leaders in including the dealer exemption in the single bill that emerges from conference, the NADA spokesman said.
“It will be a close vote, but the Senate will clearly endorse the exemption on Monday,” predicted Wood, who also is a lobbyist for the organization. “We're extremely optimistic.”
A Brownback spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
The reconciled legislation that is cleared by the House-Senate conference would then be resubmitted to the House and Senate for final approval. Such a step is normally routine. It then would go to President Barack Obama for his signature, possibly within a few weeks.
NADA's vote-counting in the Senate followed intense grassroots lobbying by the organization aimed at countering opposition from a broad coalition of groups headed by the Obama administration.
The groups represented military families, consumers, banks and civil-rights advocates who argued that a new consumer agency would do a better job than the Federal Reserve has done at policing dealer abuses of enlisted military and low-income customers.
NADA contended that dealers don't need another layer of oversight because they already are sufficiently regulated by the Fed, Federal Trade Commission and state agencies. Financial institutions that extend loans to auto customers would fall under the consumer agency's purview, the dealer group said.
The impetus for a consumer financial-protection agency originated with the financial meltdown of recent years. The agency would oversee mortgages, credit and debit cards, and other financial products for consumers.
Today's complicated developments set off confusion among the lobbies.
The Consumer Federation of America, an opponent of the dealer exemption, called the Senate's 59-39 vote “a big win for consumers.”
But when told of NADA's observation that the Senate vote on Monday could reverse the language of the current bill, Consumer Federation of America spokesman Jack Gillis said, “Yikes!” and asked for time to look into the matter.
The vote followed partisan maneuvering over the Brownback amendment to exempt dealers from oversight by a consumer agency that would be housed inside the Federal Reserve.
The Senate was slated to vote on the amendment today, but Brownback withdrew it when Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., tried to attach a separate banking provision on proprietary trading.
Brownback, who is running for governor of Kansas, was afraid his amendment would go down to defeat if the Levin provision were attached, Wood said.
That's why Brownback withdrew it, leading to a Senate vote on the financial regulation bill without a vote on a dealer exemption.