(UPDATE: Please see my latest on this)
Yesterday’s results in the election showed what has now become conventional wisdom: an “anti-incumbent mood,” something the media will parrot from now to November. Have they explored why? Have they tried to understand why people are so angry with the current crop of politicians in Washington? They can look no further than what they ignored during election coverage – last night’s debacle in the Senate.
• Tom Carper got a compromise version of his pre-emption bill through. It preserves a role for state Attorneys General in prosecuting consumer financial protection laws, but they are prevented from presenting class-action lawsuits against national banks, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency can pre-empt their own state laws with the federal standard if he or she so chooses. Right now the OCC is a horrible Bush holdover named John Dugan, but he’s stepping down in the summer. Still, the barely tolerable deal puts a lot of power in the OCC’s hands. By the way, this was the BEST thing that happened all yesterday.
• Carl Levin and Jeff Merkley were stonewalled from presenting their amendment, even under a 60-vote threshold, that would codify the Volcker rule (there’s a “study” of it implicit in the Dodd bill). Republicans, knowing that a cloture vote is coming today, have decided to stop all weakening amendments simply by not allowing unanimous consent for them to get a vote. Merkley and Levin will try again today using a variety of maneuvers.
• Byron Dorgan managed some Parliamentary theatrics when his amendment banning naked credit default swaps was blocked, forcing a vote as a second-degree amendment to a non-controversial piece. But Dorgan’s amendment was tabled with lots of Democratic support.
• There was chaos last night as Tom Harkin realized one of his amendments which he filed three weeks ago wouldn’t get a vote.
• Harry Reid called for a cloture vote today at 2pm, and the Republicans are running out the clock until them. Reid suggesting that there could be post-cloture votes, but told Maria Cantwell, who has had an amendment for weeks to restore Glass-Steagall protections, a bipartisan amendment with John McCain, that her amendment WOULD NOT BE GERMANE POST-CLOTURE. In fact:
But the only amendment that is certain to be ruled germane, said a Democratic leadership aide, is one that makes it weaker. From Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), the measure would exempt auto dealers from the purview of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that the bill would create.
• All through this time, Chris Dodd filed an amendment to gut the strongest piece of his own bill – the derivatives piece “authored” by Blanche Lincoln. I say “authored” because it was completely obvious that she was handed this tough bill for the benefit of her re-election, and even though that wasn’t secured last night, on the very same night they submitted the weakening piece in the form of a manager’s amendment. Instead of spinning off the lucrative swaps trading desks from the big banks, the bill as amended would let the systemic risk council, made up of agencies who opposed the proposal, “study” the provision, until making a (foregone) decision in two years. Lincoln says she’ll fight against the weakening amendment – oh, we’ll see about that.
Overall, we have a bill that got less bad through the Senate process, but is generally as mediocre as the House’s version, better in some ways, worse in others. And there’s a whole conference committee to go. I think the “Constructive populism” took the bill as far as it could go with this Senate, but not to the finish line.
It’s not that voters had any knowledge of this when they went to the polls yesterday. It’s that they’ve seen shenanigans like this consistently for the last five years. They’ve seen it on the Military Commissions Act and the Iraq funding bill in 2006, the FISA bills in 2007 and 2008, TARP in 2008, the health care bill in 2009, and now FinReg in 2010. They’ve seen defeat grabbed from the jaws of victory over and over and over again, and they simply have lost all trust in this crop of elites to do the job. And it’s hard to argue with the public on this one.