Well, the GOP has definitively made a stand on financial reform: We're not going to talk about it.
Tonight's vote to proceed with debate on the issue was rejected when 41 Republicans -- and Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson -- voted against 57 Democrats who wanted to bring the financial overhaul bill to the floor.
This is of note because the Dems could have bought Nelson's vote with another "cornhusker kickback." This time around, Nelson wanted to keep a provision that would have exempted currently existing derivatives from new rules about collateral. This is a silly idea -- what's the point of making sure firms set aside money to cover the costs of failure if we exempt the billions of dollars in existing derivatives contracts?
Warren Buffet, one of Nelson's constituents who also happens to own $63 billion in existing derivatives contracts, had been aggressively lobbying his senator and the rest of the Senate to grandfather in his derivatives. Democrats ignored him and killed the provision, preserving the integrity of the bill. It's a very different approach than what we saw during the great health-care reform debate.
Now comes more politics. Harry Reid switched his vote so that Democrats can hold another cloture vote down the line. And get ready for a tough message from the Democrats, accusing Republicans of standing alongside Wall Street to hamstring reform. Already, freshman senators are lining up, starting with Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, to take Republicans to task for their opposition.
"Same old business as usual," Begich says. "I'm disappointed. ... Madame President, thank you for the opportunity to vent."
-- Tim Fernholz
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