Senators Say Party-Line Vote Helps Financial Reform Effort

Posted March 22, 2010 at 5:55pm

In an odd twist, a party-line, 13-10 vote for financial regulatory reform legislation in the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Monday appears to have rejuvenated lawmakers and created a new sense of optimism that a bipartisan deal might be reached.

“A straight party-line vote in committee may make better chances for a bipartisan vote on the floor,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said after the committee markup.

According to Warner and others, Senators can focus on reaching a bipartisan deal now that the markup is behind them.

“This does help. It helps because it avoids what can be an acrimonious [markup] process,” said Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who for months has tried to reach a bipartisan deal to overhaul the regulatory system.

Standing side by side after the brief Monday afternoon markup, Dodd and ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) reaffirmed their commitment to reaching a deal. Despite the divided vote, Shelby told reporters that “we’re not polarized today” and that he and Dodd are talking on a daily basis to produce an agreement that will be debated on the Senate floor.

“There’s philosophical differences on both sides of the aisle, but we’re trying to work through this,” he said.

Republicans are likely to target Dodd’s language on consumer protection and his approach to ending government bailouts of banks considered “too big to fail.”

In a statement Monday, President Barack Obama reiterated his desire to establish a strong consumer protection agency, one of the most controversial elements of the regulatory reform debate.

“I will continue to fight to strengthen the bill and against attempts to undermine the independence of this agency,” Obama said. “I will also oppose efforts to add loopholes that could harm consumers or investors, or that allow institutions to avoid oversight that is critical for financial stability.”

Obama also urged his Democratic colleagues to hold firm.

“I urge those in the Senate who support these efforts to resist pressure from those who would preserve the status quo and to stand up for long-overdue reform that will protect American families and the long-term health of our economy,” he said.