Can Senate Republicans make up their mind on financial reform? During the past month, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and company have flipped and flopped and flipped again when it comes to writing and passing a bill overhauling how Wall Street, mortgage companies, auto dealers, payday lenders, and many more do business. With the latest stance taken by top Senate GOPers, the party has shown that it’s in near-disarray when it comes to financial regulatory reform.
In late April, on three successive occasions, Senate Republicans blocked Democrats’ efforts to open a full debate on financial reform on the Senate floor. Eventually, that filibuster broke, which in theory should have allowed the discussion to kick off. But Republicans refused to offer any amendments or participate in the debate until Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the top senators on financial reform, had worked out yet another backroom deal on the bill.
Once the debate began, top Democrats like Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) set a Memorial Day deadline for merging the Senate’s bill with the House’s and delivering the final product to President Obama. At that point, GOPers sought to prolong the Senate debate—Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) said any final vote by the Senate should be delayed by 30 days so the public could read the text. McConnell also predicted last week that the amendments process would last at least several more weeks, casting further doubt on Reid’s deadline.
Now, with the Democrats moving swiftly through the floor debate and passing surprisingly tough amendments—crackdowns on credit and debit card “swipe fees;” eliminating conflicts of interest within credit rating agencies—the GOP has changed its mind yet again. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), ranking member of the budget committee, told Politico, “We should probably finish this bill at some point because it’s getting worse every day. It’s pretty obvious that the Democrats have decided to go with the language that’s in the bill.” Gregg was echoed by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), for months the lead member of his party on financial reform and still an influential figure, who recently quipped, “I say this facetiously, but for those of us who want a good bill, we should file cloture, because every day it gets worse.”
First Republicans blocked the full debate—three times. Then they wanted to prolong it, not rush it. Now they want to cut off the amendments process and get the vote over with. It’s obvious that the momentum is against Republicans; that Democrats have the upper hand, and are going to push through as many of their amendments as they can.
CNBC quoted a Senate Democratic aide today who said the financial reform debate could wrap up as early as Wednesday or Thursday of this week. Nonetheless, the GOP’s continual flip-flopping on financial reform could allow Democrats—in the House, Senate, and White House—to score a sizable victory if and when Wall Street regulation passes.