Washington - (NBC) - Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will tell Congress Tuesday that President Barack Obama wants "shock absorbers" to contain the damage when big banks fail.
"When we don't have basic rules of the road in place that assures that consumers aren't abused and tricked, and investors don't know what's going on, then something's got to change," said Obama.
The timing may be right, just days after the SEC accused Goldman-Sachs of fraud.
Democrats are pushing a $50 billion fund, paid by banks, to save those on the verge of collapse.
"Why should the American taxpayer pay that bill?" asked Sen. Chris Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.
Republicans say that amounts to a bailout, which would encourage banks to take too many risks.
"The initiative here from our side of the aisle is to end too big to fail," New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg said.
The partisan fight is on. Democrats say banks have Republicans in their pocket.
"They're trying to paint Republicans as defenders of Wall Street," said political analyst Stuart Rothenberg.
And Republicans accuse Democrats of putting taxpayers at risk.
"We are not watering down financial reform on behalf of big banks," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. "We're just not gonna to do that."
The showdown starts Thursday when President Obama speaks in New York, as Democrats introduce their plan in the Senate.