In Defeat, Financial Reform Supporters Offer Angry Words — But Little Else

Supporters of the Senate financial reform legislation lashed out at Republicans, as GOP senators held together to block further action on the bill.

But other than urging the 41 Senate Republicans to “reconsider” their filibuster, advocates offered little else to suggest Democrats and their allies might overcome GOP obstruction of what would be the largest overhaul of regulation of the financial industry since the Great Depression.

In separate votes Monday and again Tuesday, the Senate GOP, along with conservative Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, blocked further consideration of financial reform after more than a week of harshly criticizing those proposed rules.

“The American people also demand that their leaders discuss these details and improve on these ideas,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says in remarks Tuesday from the Senate floor. “They have two simple requests: One, that their leaders look out for their economic security; and two, that their legislators legislate. In other words, they want us to look out for their jobs and they want us to do our own.

“Right now, Senate Republicans are refusing to do either,” Reid adds. “Yesterday they stood together, en bloc, to block us from moving this bill to the floor. They didn’t even want the Senate to talk about legislation as part of the normal legislative process.”

The Senate financial reform bill is based on a package authored mainly by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Dodd attempted to craft bipartisan legislation with key GOP senators, but those Republicans each in turn dropped out from the talks. The House approved its version of financial reform last year.

Wall Street lobbyists have for weeks been working to derail the Senate legislation, reportedly teaming with GOP senators to do so.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the left-leaning independent from Vermont and a staunch supporter of tough new financial regulation, also registered disappointment in the Republican filibuster.

“I am disappointed but not surprised that not a single Senate Republican voted to allow us to proceed to consideration of Wall Street reform,” Sanders says. “I hope they reconsider. To my mind, it is absolutely imperative that we end the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street which has led to the loss of millions of jobs and the worst recession in modern history.”

A key supporter of reform outside of the Senate echoed Sanders’ remarks.

Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director of the Washington advocacy organization U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), called the GOP-led filibuster “pathetic political gamesmanship.”

Republicans cobbled together “just enough [votes] to obstruct” financial reform, Mierzwinski notes.

“Each vote is a slap in the face to American families on Main Street who’ve lost jobs and home values, and whose retirement accounts read like Stephen King novels,” Mierzwinski says. “More delay and more secret negotiations serve Wall Street titans well, they but they hurt Main Street families. We urge opponents to reconsider their votes, stand up to Wall Street, and vote for reforms that will protect consumers, open shadow markets and end, once and for all, ‘to big to fail.’”

Other than their rhetoric, however, reform backers are offering little clue as how to overcome the GOP filibuster despite a poll that indicates most Americans side with Democrats on this issue.

Reid suggested the potential for further talks to get Republicans to drop the filibuster, but vowed not to compromise away the reforms.

“Senate Democrats are committed to holding Wall Street accountable and putting consumers back in control,” he says. “We expect to have more votes this week in order to move our bill to the floor. We remain open to working with our Republican colleagues, but we will not tolerate efforts to slow-walk this process or water down this reform because it is too important to middle-class families in Nevada and across America.”

The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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