Today really kicks off debate on the financial reform bill, and we’ve already had some major news. First, Majority Leader Harry Reid staked out his clear position on amendments to the bill, saying that he would like to see simple majority thresholds for all amendments. Here’s a rush transcript of that, from the floor:
BY THE TIME THIS GETS OFF THE FLOOR, IT WILL — WE WILL HAVE SHOWN THAT IT WILL HAVE A SIGNIFICANT MAJORITY OF SENATORS VOTING FOR THIS. I HOPE THAT IS THE CASE. I WOULD HOPE ALSO THAT WE DON’T GET LOCKED INTO SOMETHING THAT APPEARS TO BE THE ORDER OF THE CONGRESS AROUND HERE THAT EVERYTHING HAS TO HAVE 60 VOTES. ON OUR SIDE WE’RE WILLING — I CAN’T SPEAK FOR EVERYONE, BUT I THINK I’M GOING TO CERTAINLY — I’M MORE WITHIN MY POWER TO TELL MY SENATORS, LET’S JUST HAVE A 50-VOTE MARGIN. WHY DO WE NEED TO HAVE 60 VOTES ON EVERYTHING WE DO AROUND HERE?
This contrasts with the health care debate, where by bipartisan agreement 60 votes were automatically required for all amendments.
It’s not entirely up to Reid to do this. Like any filibuster, it really takes one Senator to deny unanimous consent and force a cloture vote on the amendment. Bob Corker said today that would probably be the standard for any “controversial” amendments.
Still, Corker said that the changes Democrats want to make to the bill would still require 60 votes, giving the GOP some leverage in the debate going forward.
“In the Senate, one senator can cause there to be a 60-person vote,” Corker said. “Anything that’s controversial or meaningful will probably require a 60-vote threshold.”
I suppose it’s progress that the Democrats appear united on simple majorities for amendments, but Republicans are likely to use this tactic to gain leverage, as Corker says.
This doesn’t doom every amendment, but probably hurts the ability to pass many of them. The Brown-Kaufman Safe Banking Act, which would limit bank size and leverage, did pick up an important supporter today, however. After a colloquy on the Senate floor between Sherrod Brown and Ted Kaufman, Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin called the measure “clearly a game changer. I am supporting this amendment, although my friends in the banking industry won’t like it… I commend [Sens. Brown and Kaufman] on their leadership.
In his remarks, Kaufman spoke directly to Republicans, saying that he saw “common cause here on the other side of the aisle,” noting that small businesses and small banks get hurt by the mega-banks. The bill would only scale back Citigroup and Goldman Sachs to the size they were around 2003, before the explosion in derivative trading and the massive conglomeration of the finance sector. “We have to pass laws. Not go back to the regulators who didn’t serve us well. We have to pass laws,” Kaufman said.
Other major votes to strengthen the bill include the Merkley-Levin amendment to ban proprietary trading, the Cantwell-McCain amendment to reinstate Glass-Steagall, the Reed amendment to make the Consumer Financial Protection Agency independent, and the Sanders amendment to audit the Federal Reserve. Voting on amendments should begin today.