North Dakota’s Byron Dorgan is retiring after this year. He doesn’t have much to lose. Financial reform has been one of his pet projects for years. He’s not shy about pointing out that he predicted the financial crisis in a 1994 Washington Monthly cover story warning of the hazards of derivatives.
Still, Dorgan had been relatively muted in his criticism of the financial reform bill cobbled together by Sen. Christopher Dodd, who is also retiring this year and who sees financial reform as his crowning achievement. But things had been bubbling behind the scenes. Dorgan was especially upset that his proposed amendment to the financial reform bill wouldn’t even get a vote. His amendment would prohibit naked credit default swaps, which Dorgan views as little more than pure gambling by the big banks, not a way to hedge their financial risks, but merely placing bets on other people’s bets.
In the Senate Democratic Caucus meeting today, Dorgan and other progressive senators pressed the leadership to allow their amendments to strengthen the bill to come to a vote. According to Dorgan, the leadership relented and said his amendment would be one of the ones to come to a vote.
But tonight, as Brian Beutler reports, when the list of amendments to be voted on was released, Dorgan’s was not among them. A frustrated Dorgan approached Dodd and Majority Leader Harry Reid on the floor this evening and told them he would filibuster financial reform if his amendment doesn’t get a vote. “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 told us.
In truth, most of the progressives’ amendments stand little chance of passing. But they’re staking their claim on at least getting a vote on them. Now Dorgan has upped the ante with a filibuster threat.
David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.