Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is in a rush to pass financial services regulatory reform legislation—even if the reforms are insufficient to protect consumers and avoid another meltdown moment.
Senate Banking Committee chair Chris Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat who is ready to retire, is similarly inclined.
Reid and Dodd thought they had the 60 votes they needed to end the debate on reforming the way that Wall Street does business. They even had some Republican allies who were willing to back a cloture call.
But when the cloture vote came Wednesday afternoon, Reid could only muster 57 votes—those of 55 Democratic caucus members and Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine.
Where were the other three Democratic votes that Reid needed?
Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter did not vote, presumably because he was still recovering from his not-a-victory party after Tuesday´s Democratic primary loss.
But the two key `no´ votes came from two Democrats who have been supporters of real reform—Wisconsin´s Russ Feingold and Washington´s Maria Cantwell.
Said Feingold: “After thirty years of giving in to the wishes of Wall Street lobbyists, Congress needs to finally enact tough reforms to prevent Wall Street from driving our economy into the ditch again. We need to eliminate the risk posed to our economy by ‘too big to fail’ financial firms and to reinstate the protective firewalls between Main Street banks and Wall Street firms. Unfortunately, these key reforms are not included in the bill. The test for this legislation is a simple one – whether it will prevent another financial crisis. As the bill stands, it fails that test. Ending debate on the bill is finishing before the job is done."
Feingold, one of only eight senators who had the good sense to vote in 1999 against tearing apart the regulatory structure that Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his congressional allies erected as a firewall between Wall Street investment firms and Main Street banks, is of course correct.
Reid and Dodd want to pass a bill—no matter how lame the legislation may be.
Feingold and Cantwell want real reform. And the American people should hope they get it.