Financial reform update
by desmoinesdem, Wed May 19, 2010 at 10:56:35 AM EDT
The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the many primary elections this month have drawn much of the media's attention away from the Senate debate on financial reform. That's too bad, because this bill will affect the future stability of our financial system and the ability of financial institutions to fleece consumers. I've been catching up with David Dayen's superb coverage of the financial reform debate, and most of the news isn't encouraging.
Senate Republicans voted several times in early May to block the bill from coming up for debate, but they soon decided that was not a viable strategy. In the early days of Senate debate, some decent amendments were adopted to strengthen the bill. For example, one amendment sponsored by Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, which passed last week, would ban some deceptive practices by mortgage lenders.
This week Republicans have been trying to "run out the clock" on more strengthening amendments. By denying unanimous consent to bring these amendments to a vote, they have been able to keep the Senate from voting on an amendment by Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, which would ban naked credit default swaps. Republicans have also blocked a vote on Tom Harkin of Iowa's amendment to cap ATM fees at 50 cents. In addition, a measure backed by Merkley and Carl Levin of Michigan, which would impose the so-called "Volcker rule," has been denied a vote. Merkley-Levin "would ban proprietary trading at banks and require the Federal Reserve to impose tougher capital requirements on large non-banks that engage in the same type of trading". I have a sense of deja vu reading about the Merkley-Levin amendment; like the public health insurance option, Merkley-Levin has the stated support of the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. And as with the public option, these Democrats won't do what's necessary to get Merkley-Levin into the bill.
Meanwhile, many Senate Democrats are doing Wall Street's bidding by watering down key provisions of the financial reform. Most of the Democratic Senate caucus backed an amendment from Tom Carper of Delaware, which "would block class-action lawsuits by state Attorneys General against national banks" and "would allow the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to pre-empt regulation at the state level of consumer financial protection laws." Chris Dodd of Connecticut got an amendment through last night that eliminates real derivatives reform from this bill. Now, instead of forcing some large banks to spin off their businesses in trading derivatives, Dodd's amendment delays that move for two years so the issue can be further studied.
Dayen concludes, "Overall, we have a bill that got less bad through the Senate process, but is generally as mediocre as the House’s version, better in some ways, worse in others. And there’s a whole conference committee to go." Looks like we'll be stuck with a bill that only gives the appearance of solving key problems, as opposed to a bill that would solve the key problems.
Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.
WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: Dodd withdrew his derivatives amendment today, Merkley and Levin are trying a new tactic to get their amendment considered, and Reid's cloture vote failed today, 57-42, despite two Republicans yes votes (Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine). Reid voted no at the last minute so that he could bring up the matter again tomorrow. Two other Democrats voted no: Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Maria Cantwell of Washington. Like several other Senate progressives, Feingold wants votes on more strengthening amendments, and Cantwell isn't happy with "a loophole in the derivatives piece".