28 April 2010

GOP Abandons Financial Regulation Filibuster

Republican Senator George Voinovich of Ohio, a relatively moderate Republican Senator, appears to have been the crucial individual to break ranks with his GOP peers in the Senate on the filibuster of a proposal to overhaul regulation of the financial industry, in the wake of the financial crisis. In the face of that change of heart, the GOP knowing that it would lack or soon lack the votes to maintain a filibuster, the GOP will allow the legislation to go forward after two almost party line votes with 57 Democrats (or quasi-Democrats) voting in favor of voting on the bill, and a third that secured 56 votes. So, the proposal largely along the lines of the Obama Administration's plan with modest modifications won in committee will now be debated and mostly likely pass with few amendments.

Voinovich's public reasoning is that negotiations behind the scenes deal with Republicans have gone nowhere. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican Senator from Maine was another individual cited as breaking ranks.The press in the story linked speculates that public opinion in favor of the bill may have also been forcing Republican hands - usually Democrats to force repeated public votes on legislation that is being filibustered.

A fig leaf of a concession also helped move the legislation forward.

Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the Banking Committee, said Wednesday he had received assurances that Democrats would adjust the bill to address GOP concerns that it would perpetuate bailouts of banks. . . .

Republicans said they now expect Democrats to jettison a $50 billion fund that would have been financed by banks to help liquidate large failing institutions. The Republicans said they also expect Democrats to tighten language so the bill would mandate that shareholders' stakes in a failing firm be wiped out. The current bill says there would be that presumption.

It is hard to see that the concern about bank bailouts is actually widely held in the Republican caucus (the bank bailouts were conducted on the watch of George W. Bush), but the change certainly doesn't weaken the basic thrust of the bill, and the Republican embrace of an anti-bailout position, may have doomed their chances of prevailing on the legislation as a whole.

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