What started as a minor skirmish among Democrats over Wall Street reform could turn into a big problem, if party leaders stand in Byron Dorgan’s way. And with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hoping to draw debate to a close by Wednesday next week, they don’t have much time to act.
On the Senate floor this evening, the North Dakota Democrat told Harry Reid and Chris Dodd he’d try to block financial reform legislation from coming to a vote unless they give one of his amendments a fair hearing. “I just told the leader and the committee chairman that I wouldn’t be voting for cloture—I’d be voting against cloture—unless my amendment is considered,” a frustrated Dorgan told me and one other reporter on his way out of the chamber.
He also publicly called into question the efficacy of the overall bill, which he says may not be up to the task of reining in financial industry excess. “I understand everybody thinks their amendment’s important, but the question of the unbelievable speculation in credit default swaps that have no insurable interest—if we can’t vote on something like that, given what we’ve seen in recent years, then it’s not really financial reform,” Dorgan said.
At a caucus meeting earlier today Dorgan and several other progressive senators—including Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA)—pressed leadership to put their amendments on the floor for a vote.
“There seems to be a difference between those who’ve had their amendments considered and those who haven’t, oddly enough,” joked Whitehouse on his way out of the meeting.
Cantwell predicted that she would get a vote on her amendment reinstating a Depression-era law preventing banks from owning other kinds of financial firms. Dorgan was told his amendment banning naked CDSes would get a hearing.
But when the list of coming amendments was unveiled this evening, Dorgan’s was missing—and he doesn’t know why. “I don’t know the answer to that,” Dorgan said.
The next financial reform votes are scheduled for Monday. That means his amendment could still come up before debate draws to a close. That’ll be a tight squeeze with primary elections on Tuesday, but still possible. Conversely, it’s possible that Democrats can convince enough Republicans to join them in breaking a filibuster and they won’t need Dorgan’s vote. But if Democrats and Republicans are indeed on a collision course, Reid will need every vote he can get…including Dorgan’s.
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.