A lot of positioning on the Senate floor right now:

First Chris Dodd attempted to bring up the Merkley-Levin amendment for an afternoon vote, darkly warning about efforts to “not get a vote” for some amendments because of Republican obstructionism. He asked unanimous consent on the motion to call up the amendment, and Richard Shelby, acting on the behalf of others (saying “I am not necessarily inclined to vote against the amendment,”) objected. So Merkley-Levin sits in the hopper for a little while longer.

Dodd then moved to get a few more amendments voted on, but Byron Dorgan, who’s been on a one-man crusade to get a vote for his amendment banning naked credit default swaps, objected, asking if his amendment could be added to the queue. Everyone looked confused and they went to a break.

Dorgan came back and told the chamber that the leadership has decided to “only allow amendments they prefer to be allowed.” He says he’s been there for weeks, and he’s been trying to get the amendment pending, or else it won’t get a vote in advance of cloture. He blasted the “gatekeepers” holding back his amendment, alluding to the fact that they were acting on the behalf of others. He called his amendment “unbelievably necessary to do… if we can claim to have reformed the financial system.” He asked unanimous consent again for his amendment, and again it was blocked by Richard Shelby.

This is getting ugly. I don’t think there’s any chance Dorgan supports the bill if he doesn’t get a vote.

UPDATE: It’s becoming more clear what’s going on. Republicans are running out the clock on strengthening amendments. They know that Harry Reid wants to invoke cloture tomorrow, and Reid believes he has the votes. So if Republicans can just stop the remaining strengthening amendments to get on the pending calendar, they’ll basically get skipped. You can bring up and vote on amendments after cloture is invoked, but the argument Dorgan was making was that they have to pass a UC request to get in the queue before that can happen. Republicans are working the clock and will only let non-controversial amendments, about “puppies and tourism” in the words of Dorgan, to go forward from this point on.

Dorgan responded to that by saying “I will object to having people decide that we’ll only cover non-controversial amendments.” That could spell the end of the entire amendment process, but it’s not clear whether Republicans will much care about that.

Stay tuned…

UPDATE II: Dorgan just said “objections run both ways,” and he’ll object to basically everything that happens until he gets a vote on his naked CDS amendment.

UPDATE III: Democrats reportedly offered a 60-vote threshold on the Merkley-Levin amendment (Volcker rule), and Republicans still wouldn’t allow it to come up for a vote. They clearly fear this amendment and are doing the bidding of the big banks.

UPDATE IV: Senators Merkley and Levin will hold a press conference in minutes to denounce the Republicans holding up a vote on their amendment.

Chris Dodd should threaten to put Merkley-Levin in the manager’s amendment. He says he supports it.

UPDATE V: Ryan Grim has a bit more on this.