Lawmakers picked apart virtually every element of the Obama administration's regulatory reform plan during a hearing Thursday, but there was one question that dominated: Would it really prevent another financial crisis?

"If we have institutions that are 'too big to fail,' have we not failed already, since they create a systemic risk?" asked Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. "I saw the road you traveled here in trying to deal with that in terms of trying to increase capital requirements, but is that really sufficient to get to the heart" of the matter?

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