by Nathan Empsall, Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 02:45:51 PM EDT
Wall Street reform looks to be in as much trouble as the energy bill. Though the bill was passed out of conference, it’s actually now losing votes on the Senate floor despite the addition of Maria Cantwell. Robert Byrd’s death is one and Repub Scott Brown is two, and four others are threatening to walk.The original vote was 59-39 with Specter and Byrd not voting. Factor them in, and we can only afford to lose two votes after gaining Cantwell's. If Russ Feingold continues to filibuster, then we need all four of the remaining waverers lest the 2007-8 status quo stands and Wall Street brings down the economy again.
Brown is opposing the bill and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and the Maine twins are threatening to oppose it because of a $17.9 billion fee on big banks from the House version. Democrat Evan Bayh has also grown wishy-washy.
This is ridiculous. Big financial firms and banks have caused trillions of dollars worth of damage to this country - $700 in TARP funds, $787 billion in the stimulus, two consecutive quarters of 6% decline in US GDP, 10% unemployment – yet Repubs would risk it happening all over again rather than tax these crooks a paltry $18 billion? Puh-leaze! It's even more hypocritical when one considers the anti-bailout bleating of most of these Repubs. Here’s our chance for another Main Street bailout, and yet just as with the stimulus and unemployment extension, they’re saying no. Any good will Brown generated by introducing Elena Kagan to the Judiciary Committee yesterday is gone now.
Dodd and Franks have made some small changes to address these petty concerns, but that won't solve all the bill's political woes - and not just because Brown is still playing coy. Democratic Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin is also planning to vote against the legislation, as he did before conference. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) also voted against it in May, but her concerns about derivatives seem to have been addressed. Feingold, however, is almost taking the position that unless we end too-big-to-fail (and it is too bad that the bill doesn't), then we should leave the current system in place exactly as it its.
I truly admire Feingold and am happy to fundraise for his re-election campaign, but I think he's making a terrible mistake here. If the bill’s strength is already losing it votes, holding out for something better will lose even more. Give Feingold what he wants and not only do the four Republicans firm up their opposition, perhaps we lose not only Bayh but Ben Nelson as well, who voted against an initial procedural motion. That takes us from a possible 61 and passage to a ceiling of 56-57 and failure.
It made sense to filibuster in May when there was still a chance to strengthen the bill, but we’re in the end game now. Either we pass this bill or one very close to it, or we don’t pass a bill at all. This wasn’t the case before conference when the August recess was still far away, but it is the case now. If Feingold and others want to register discontent, they should vote for cloture and against the bill, but a vote against cloture is a vote for Jamie Dimon and a vote for the 2007-8 status quo.