WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke offered a vigorous defense of his agency's oversight of holding companies and state banks, rejecting a Senate bill that would strip them of supervisory powers over all but the biggest institutions.

Under the bill by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, the Fed would oversee only holding companies with $50 billion or more of assets — a population of only 55 companies — while losing oversight of approximately 5,000 other institutions.

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