Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed frustration last night that there had been, at that time, no unanimous consent agreements on any amendment to Wall Street reform. “We had amendments that their Senators offered yesterday that we were willing to accept, but they refused to let us do that,” he said on the Senate floor. “I understand that the Republicans have made a decision that they’re going to be the party of no, and you would think after they established that, that would be good enough for them. But I guess they want to underscore and underline it and have a big exclamation mark so no one will ever miss the fact that the Republican Party in this Congress has been the party of no.”
This morning, there was a minor breakthrough, emphasis on minor. Senators Chris Dodd and Richard Shelby, who are managing the bill, agreed to vote on the Boxer amendment, a non-controversial piece that just explicitly says “no taxpayer money for bailouts of failing companies,” at 11:30am, with a vote on Richard Shelby’s amendment, which codifies the deal on resolution authority made, with Democrats conceding the $50 billion dollar “pre-fund” paid for by the banks, at 12:30. Under the new deal, the Treasury would loan the resolution funds to the FDIC, which it would have to cover through the sale of assets, and failing that, a fee on financial firms. If it sounds all that different, well, it isn’t.
I suppose this movement on amendments represents progress, but we’re two days and a half into this debate, and we’re finally getting a vote on two amendments out of around 155. That doesn’t bode well for the plan by Sen. Reid to wrap this up by the end of next week. There are other priorities for this legislative period, like finishing work with a conference report on the “extenders” bill (which would extend a variety of expiring tax credits as well as keep unemployment insurance and the COBRA subsidy going until the end of the year), about 100 Presidential nominations, a firefighter collective bargaining bill, a food safety bill, a supplemental for war funding for Afghanistan, a small business jobs package, a potential budget resolution, and more. Whether the Republican disagreement on amendments reflects a stall tactic or a way to force 60-vote thresholds for amendments so they get a say on some of them or whatever, I don’t see it resolving itself, and getting in all the votes, before the end of next week.
This gives more time for some amendments to build support, but it also gives those who want to kill popular amendments, like the audit the Fed bill, more time. Claire McCaskill and Richard Burr are already backing away from the “audit the Fed” amendment by Sen. Sanders, after both of them voted for a similar resolution last spring. Burr is, in fact, a co-sponsor of the bill with identical language on Fed transparency.