All week, Senate Republicans have been blocking a floor debate on the Democrats’ financial regulatory reform legislation, holding out, they say, for a comprehensive bipartisan agreement between Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, and his counterpart Richard Shelby. Now that both sides acknowledge that a grand deal is not in the offing, Republicans are inching toward breaking their filibuster. This morning on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, sounding resigned to the fact that the Democrats outlasted him, dropped all talk of allowing negotiations to continue, and turned his attention to measures in the Democrats’ bill he wants to see fixed.
“[T]his has been a very useful exercise,” McConnell said. “By giving people time to actually look at this bill and study the details for themselves, we’ve enabled them to assess not only the potential impact of the actual text of the bill itself, but also some of the unintended consequences it could have.”McConnell contrasted the skirmish over financial reform with previous legislative fights over the stimulus and health care bills. “This time,” he said, “people have actually had a chance to look at one of these massive Democrat bills for a change, and what’s perfectly clear to most of them is that this bill needs some work, which is precisely what Republicans have been saying for the last two weeks.”
Call it declaring victory and going home. McConnell went on to run through a litany of complaints about the legislation. But gone was all talk of giving Dodd and Shelby more time, or going back to the drawing board: “Americans want a number of things in this bill fixed,” McConnell said. “And they want more than verbal assurances. At this point, Americans want the supporters of this bill to put a highlighter through the relevant passages and then tab the pages.”
The Senate is set to vote at 12:30 this afternoon on whether to allow debate on the Dodd bill. On Monday and Tuesday, Republicans stuck together to prevent that. Will they hold firm today?