Democratic and Republican Senators are bracing for a legislative battle royal over financial regulatory reform, but both sides are clearly hoping a bipartisan agreement breaks before they have to draw their rhetorical swords.
GOP Senators appeared to be closing ranks in an attempt to get Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to agree to some key changes. But they were also hoping to avoid a filibuster showdown with Democrats, given a bipartisan deal between Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) could be in the offing perhaps by the end of the week.
Democrats were struggling to mend an intraparty rift over the issue: Some Senators are itching for a floor fight now while others are urging leadership to hold off until a bipartisan bill is ready.
I think theres a continuing tension in the caucus between those who hold out hope for meaningful and sincere bipartisan negotiations and those who see Lucy yanking the football away from Charlie Brown for the umpteenth time, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has tempered his criticism of Dodds financial reform bill in recent days and repeatedly asked for more time to work out a deal. Meanwhile, Republicans have picked up their criticism of the White House for interfering with substantive talks that could have produced a compromise were it not for ads from the Democratic National Committee politicizing the issue.
Why do you think there isnt an agreement? Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) asked. The White House has to decide whether they want an issue in November or whether they want a consensus bill.
A GOP aide echoed that sentiment, noting that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner continues to meet with Senators to discuss potential changes to the overhaul but nothing is happening.
I dont know if hes not telling them anything or if the White House political arm just doesnt care, the aide said.
As Republicans continued hammering that message, White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told reporters Tuesday, Were going to be able to have a bill that has some bipartisan support.
Burton also said White House officials were considering stripping language creating a bank-financed $50 billion fund for the dissolution of failed financial firms in order to score GOP votes.
I think theres a lot of different calculus for what it will take to get some Republican support onto this bill, but like I said, thats just one of many issues that were talking to them about, Burton told reporters.
Still, neither Democrats nor the White House seem eager to slow down the process of considering financial reform, and Reid is likely to start debate on the bill as early as Monday.
Dodd told his colleagues on Tuesday that he believes he could seal a deal with Shelby by the end of the week, but many Democrats some sources said roughly half the Conference are leery, believing Dodd will give too much ground to Republicans.
One senior Senate Democratic aide said Democrats might rally around Dodd if he jettisoned the controversial bank fund, so long as he does not compromise too much on consumer issues and the derivative title.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.