The Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill just passed the Senate, 60-39. It now goes to the President for his signature. The new law won’t do nearly enough to prevent another Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns – for instance, there’s no practical way to break up too-big-to-fail – but it improves the status quo at least somewhat and was worth passage.
And yet, the man who would be Speaker if voters choose Republican this fall is already calling for the bill’s repeal. That’s right; John Boehner thinks the government should leave Wall Street in exactly the same regulatory position that allowed it to double unemployment and seize up credit.
I understand the politics of demanding repeal of the health insurance bill. The thing’s unpopular. But voters actually care about the economy; they don’t want to lose their jobs, and they understand that the financial industry is to blame for the economic collapse. What the hell is Boehner thinking?
“I think it ought to be repealed,” Boehner said at his weekly press conference. “There are commonsense things that you should do to plug the holes in the regulatory system that were there, and to bring more transparency to financial transactions, because transparency is like sunlight. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
Boehner doesn’t get it. Transparency works when we’re talking about politicians. If we don’t like what we see, we can vote them out. That’s not true of private corporations. If setting up the economy to fail isn’t illegal, it doesn’t matter how transparent it is; there’s nothing the public can do other than yell louder and louder about completely legal activities. If ever there was an industry that screamed for regulation, it’s the financial sector. Under no circumstances can John Boehner be permitted to become Speaker of the House.
And yet, he’s not alone. Senators Thune, Shelby, and LeMieux:
“If we were in a position to do something, maybe [Boehner] is right," said GOP Policy Chairman Sen. John Thune (S.D.). "We'll see if we can do something about it after the next election."
Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the top Republican on the Banking Committee, said he “absolutely” agreed.
"If you vote against it, you know it should be repealed. It's the wrong bill. It's not reform. It ignores Fannie and Freddie. It's not going to create any jobs. It's going to create a huge bureaucracy,” Shelby said.
Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) said he would look to repeal parts of the legislation.
Also Senators Graham, McCain, and Corker:
South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham called the bill a "missed opportunity" to control spending and set priorities. And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was similarly underwhelmed, calling it "business as usual."
"No one can make a convincing argument that this legislation indeed prevents any institution from being too big to fail. You can't make that argument," he told reporters at the Captiol today. McCain's amendment, which would have mandated an end to government support of the failed companies within two years failed, 43 to 56.
Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, a top Republican player in the financial reform debate, slammed the Democrat-backed bill... One reporter noted that Corker had helped to craft the legislation, negotiating several provisions with Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, and Corker acknowledged his role but quickly pivoted back to his talking points.
(McCain is right that the bill doesn't end TBTF, but mandating that the government ignore rather than break up such institutions wouldn't solve the problem either.)
Senator Alexander and possible presidential candidate Rep. Mike Pence:
TPMDC asked Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the third ranking Republican in the Senate, whether Republicans would make a concerted push to repeal the financial reform bill.
"Well, that's a good -- that's a good, that's a good question," Alexander said. "We're very disappointed with this...If we have a Congress with a majority of Republicans, and there are ways to improve it or fix it, I imagine there'll be an effort to do that."
Pence suggested much the same... What elements of the law would need to be dismantled?
"There's several aspects of that, but I can break that down for you. Let's jump off that bridge when we come to it," Pence said.
What a message. I think Democratic chances this fall just got a lot better.