Democrats and Republicans may once again be poised for a head-to-head collision over Wall Street reform.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid started the clock yesterday, and it is now ticking down toward a key Wednesday test vote, where Democrats will learn whether or not they have assuaged (or intimidated) enough Republicans to break a filibuster.
Leadership wants every Democrat, and at least one Republican on board, but at this late hour it’s not clear they have either. Feeling burned by leadership, and dubious that the legislation reaches far enough to truly rein in excess on Wall Street, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) has threatened to join the filibuster, unless his amendment that would ban trading in naked credit default swaps gets a vote on the floor. Discussions between Dorgan and other leaders continues, but thus they remain at an impasse.
On the other side, GOP leaders would like more than anything to draw out floor action a bit longer. When Reid moved three weeks ago to bring the bill to the floor, Republicans held together for several days, repeatedly voting to delay the debate, but finally relented when moderates made it clear they wanted the filibuster to end. A repeat performance could be in order, though many of the same moderates, including Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), have seen their amendments adopted in the past several days.
The top financial reform negotiators, Sens. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Richard Shelby (R-AL), have been putting together a final package of changes to round out the debate, and it is likely to scale back the bill’s title regulating derivatives trading. That section of the legislation was authored by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), who’s in a closely contested primary and has been guarding her left flank—including by proposing tougher-than-expected derivatives rules. Democrats have sought to delay changing her plan until after today’s election. In the end, the Democrats’ ability to pass the bill may depend on when that so-called manager’s amendment is complete.
Once the bill is passed, the differences between it, and a House-passed Wall Street reform bill will be ironed out, though it’s unclear whether that process will take place in a formal conference committee, or, as the White House prefers, through a more informal negotiating process between Democratic principals.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.