Senate Hands Reid Major Win on Wall Street Reform Bill

Posted May 20, 2010 at 8:03pm

After two days of wrangling over amendments and votes, Senate Democrats passed their massive rewrite of financial industry regulations Thursday, allowing Majority Leader Harry Reid to notch a significant victory.

By a vote of 59-39, the Senate passed the measure, but only after narrowly clearing two major hurdles that required 60 votes.

Reid, who faces a difficult re-election at home in Nevada, made the legislation to increase oversight of the financial world a top priority and maneuvered it through procedural and political minefields over the last month.

In the end, Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Susan Collins (Maine) and Scott Brown (Mass.) voted for the bill. Democratic Sens. Russ Feingold (Wis.) and Maria Cantwell (Wash.) voted against it. Sens. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) did not vote.

Moments before the final vote, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) raised a budget point of order against the bill because the measure exceeds the Banking Committee’s budget allocations by more than $20 billion. Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said the point of order was pointless because the Budget Committee did not provide the panel with a reserve fund in last year’s budget and that the costs incurred by the bill would be covered by the financial industry.

Three Republicans joined Democrats to waive that point of order on a 60-39 vote.

Earlier in the day, Reid succeeded in finding the one vote he needed to end a GOP-led filibuster that was supported by two liberal Democrats.

Brown, who helped Republicans block the bill Wednesday, switched his vote Thursday, saying in a statement: “I supported moving the financial bill forward today because I received assurances from Senator Reid and his leadership team that the issues related to Massachusetts in the financial reform bill will be fixed before it is signed into law. We are still working to ensure these commitments are fulfilled prior to a final vote.”

However, an impasse between Republicans and Democrats prevented the Senate from adopting any further amendments, including those that would have addressed Brown’s concerns.

Republicans also moved to prevent a vote on an amendment to bar banks from using their own money to make risky trading deals that are only intended to increase their profit margins. The proposal had been added as a second-degree amendment to a Sen. Sam Brownback amendment. When the Kansas Republican withdrew his proposal, the second amendment was rendered moot.

Sen. Carl Levin, who co-sponsored an amendment with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), blasted Republicans just before the vote for their procedural maneuvering.

“If that amendment is withdrawn because of the fear that Merkley-Levin would pass, that would be an extraordinary, powerful, additional statement of the influence of Wall Street,” the Michigan Democrat said of Brownback’s amendment.

Levin added that Banking ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) supported the proposal and that Democratic leaders would try to work it into a conference agreement with House Members.