Handing over the “bipartisan opposition” talking point to Republicans, Ben Nelson just voted against the motion to proceed on the Wall Street reform bill, almost certainly dooming its passage for today. Democrats were probably working for this outcome in the short term, thinking that putting Republicans on the side of the big banks was a positive scenario. But Nelson, who had been quiet leading up to the vote, kind of gummed up their narrative by voting no.

More as the vote gets finalized…

…Bob Corker, Olympia Snowe, Chuck Grassley and Susan Collins, seen as possible votes to flip, all voted no. But Richard Burr, a Republican in a tough election in North Carolina, just voted yes. Still, without Nelson I don’t think the Democrats will have the votes today. Burr got to walk because Nelson gave him the out.

…So what happens now? Well, the Democrats preferred this outcome – it drew some battle lines. They’ll spend the next few days pounding on the Republicans for being tools of Wall Street. The Republicans will respond with their own bill, which will probably be a Fannie and Freddie-fest. And there will be much yelling and screaming on cable news.

I could see Democrats putting this up to a vote every few days until someone else on the Republican side breaks.

But on the substance, we don’t know if the Democrats will allow what amounts to an open rule, with a lot of amendments put up for a vote. Russ Feingold is calling for that:

“But while I support opening debate on that measure, I will not support any predetermined amending process, or as one senator described it, a ‘template’ for floor consideration that effectively puts the fix in for some negotiated final product. Congress’ recent history on regulating the financial sector is not a proud one. For the last 30 years, Congress has consistently given in to the wishes of Wall Street banks and voted to weaken essential safeguards. And as has been the case in so many areas, members of both political parties in Washington are to blame. Legislation that paved the way for the creation of massive Wall Street entities and removed essential protections for our economy – including the Riegle-Neal Act and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act – passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Congress needs to get it right this time, and finally enact tough reforms to prevent Wall Street from driving our economy into the ditch again. I will not vote to end debate on this bill unless and until it meets that goal.”

UPDATE: I could have sworn I heard Burr vote Aye, but I could be wrong. It’s irrelevant at this point, as Nelson’s no vote means that the Democrats would come up short either way.

UPDATE II: OK, Burr did not vote yes. The final vote was 57-41, with all Democrats voting yes but Ben Nelson and Reid (for procedural reasons, so he can bring it up again).