When U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White backed tighter rules for brokers last week, her words were greeted with cheers, oddly, by both supporters and opponents of the controversial plan.

The rare consensus underscores just how little anyone knows, so far, about how any rule might look. Still, even before the details are out, White’s move to insert the agency into the debate has given ammunition to both Wall Street firms and consumer groups in the biggest financial policy battle in Washington.

At issue is an Obama administration effort to stop what it calls biased financial advice that is costing investors billions of dollars. The Labor Department will soon issue a plan to force brokers to adopt a fiduciary duty to put retirement clients’ interests ahead of their own. White said she supports imposing a similar standard on all brokers for retail investors.

Lawmakers will have their first opportunity on Tuesday to question White about her plans to begin developing a fiduciary duty standard, which she aired for the first time at a securities industry conference last week. Her remarks came during a question-and-answer session rather than in a prepared speech, leaving no official text for the legions of industry lawyers to parse.

“We were really happy that she came out publicly, but we’re still a long way away from the SEC moving forward with a rule,” said Micah Hauptman, financial services counsel at the Consumer Federation of America, which supports the stricter rules. “Realistically speaking, we are years away from that.”

In prepared remarks for Tuesday’s hearing, White didn’t elaborate significantly. She reiterated that she will be discussing the standard with her fellow commissioners and staff in the near term.

‘Suitable’ Recommendations

Under current regulations, brokers must make “suitable” recommendations, meaning the investments have to fit the customer’s needs and tolerance for risk. The White House has said the system fosters conflicts of interest for brokers, who often reap fees from mutual funds and other companies to sell their products. Such arrangements cost retirement investors $17 billion a year, the Council of Economic Advisers found.

The main broker trade group, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, has said that estimate is wrong. In a white paper released Monday, Sifma also said that the White House didn’t adequately consider the effectiveness of the SEC’s current rules.