After months of wrangling, Senate Democrats and a handful of Republicans
(Scott Brown, Susan Collins, Chuck Grassley, and Olympia Snowe) passed
financial regulatory reform legislation on Thursday night. The House had
passed its own version in December and the two bills must still be
combined in conference committee. But for the time being this is a big
political victory for Democrats, for President Obama, and perhaps for
those who wish to better regulate Wall Street so as to prevent the next
crash. (Thought there is some debate among that last group.) Here are the details
of the bill. Here's how they passed it.
- 'Last-Minute Deal' With Sen. Scott Brown The Wall Street Journal's Damian Paletta and Greg Hitt cite "a last-minute deal that won the backing of Sen. Scott Brown (R., Mass.), who sought to protect the interests of mutual fund and asset management companies in his state. ... Brown was concerned that companies such as State Street Corp., Fidelity Investments, and Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., because of the large amount of assets they manage, could face restrictions similar to the curbs placed on big Wall Street banks."
- Liberals Had To Make Sacrifices The Daily Beast's Eric Alterman sees a "thicket of compromises" in the bill. "Like with health care, liberals left feeling queasy at best." He cites the watered-down Volcker Rule and the dropped provision to "let states cap credit-card interest rates and impose restrictions on rates charged by out-of-state lenders."
So yes, we have a pattern here. The Obama team lets Congress take the lead and there, the lobbyists play their game of tug-of-war with the public interest. A watered-down rough draft emerges, in which the Republicans, after long negotiations, decide that, after all, they can’t really support the thing, much as they would like to in, say, some other universe. Even so, they get much of what they want simply because a) Democrats need lobbyists’ cash just as much as Republicans do, and b) the Obama administration remains desperate to pursue bipartisan solutions to America’s problems, even though it has long ago lost any hope of actually achieving them.
- Bipartisan Common Ground The Guardian's Michael Tomasky notes, "Four Republicans voted for it, including Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and it will be interesting to watch the reaction to that vote among the tea partiers. ... World of ideological make believe, meet world of actual legislating."
Brown and [Democratic Senator Ted] Kaufman, disappointed though they surely were, mad even, voted for the bill. Legislation like this is never perfect or even particularly close to perfect. And it's not the 1930s, when Glass Steagall passed. Conditions, though plenty bad, aren't anywhere near as catastrophic as they were then. We got the bill that historical conditions would permit us to get. The point of politics is to change those conditions. That takes a long time. This is just a step down that road.
- Why Two Dems Opposed Passage Time's Jay Newton-Small reports, "Two Democrats voted against the bill, Russ Feingold and Maria Cantwell, on the grounds that it did not go far enough in protecting the consumer. 'The bill does not eliminates the risk to our economy posed by too big to fail financial firms, nor does it restore the proven safeguards established after the Great Depression, which separated Main Street banks from Wall Street firms and are essential to preventing another meltdown,' Feingold said in a statement after the vote."
- 'Clever Legislative Jujitsu' The American Prospect's Tim Fernholz chronicles, "Particularly at stake was an amendment from Sam Brownback to exempt auto dealers from consumer regulation and another amendment proposed by Senators Merkley and Levin to strengthen a measure already in the bill to limit the kinds of risky business banks can engage in. While the Merkley-Levin amendment could not be voted on post-cloture due to a technicality, in a clever bit of legislative jujitsu, the two attached their amendment to Brownback's as a second-order amendment, meaning that both would have to be voted on together to enter the bill. Reformers opposed Brownback and supported Merkley-Levin, but could at least see stronger restrictions on Wall Street if Brownback succeeded."