After Weeks Of Negotiating, Republicans Block Debate On Financial Reform Bill

Senate Republicans followed through on their threat today to block debate on a financial regulatory reform bill authored by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT). The final tally on the vote to break the filibuster was 57 to 41, with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) joining the Republicans, but failed to meet the 60 vote threshold required to end debate and bring the bill to the Senate floor. (Majority Leader Harry Reid also voted no — a procedural move he had to make in order to hold a swift revote.)

The move ratchets up a political food fight between Democrats and Republicans, with Dems on the offense, charging that the GOP’s decision to block progress on the legislation puts them on the side of Wall Street.Speaking on the Senate floor hours before the vote, Majority Leader Harry Reid said the vote “reveal[s] who believes we need to strengthen oversight of Wall Street, and who does not [and] force[s] each Senator to publicly proclaim whether party unity is more important than economic security.”

Behind the scenes, though, talks between Dodd, and his negotiating partner Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) continued today and are set to carry on tonight and in the days ahead. Entering a meeting in Dodd’s office this afternoon, Shelby told reporters a deal could come this week, “but not before this afternoon.”

That may be a rosy assessment. Briefing reporters today, Shelby’s aides painted a much different picture than the principals themselves have put forth. They say the two sides have made progress, but blame ongoing gridlock over issues like resolution authority and consumer financial protection on Dodd’s unwillingness to compromise.

Democrats have threatened in the past few weeks to turn up the pressure on Republican swing votes, possibly by forcing repeated votes to break the filibuster. And indeed revotes are already scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

“I think the next step quite honestly is going to be a vote a couple of days [from now],” predicted White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today.

A big question then is what Republican members do if talks between Shelby and Dodd don’t swiftly yield a global compromise. Will they stick together for as long as it takes, or will some of them feel the political heat and peel away from their leadership? As he emerged from the meeting with Dodd this afternoon, I asked Shelby for his take on that. “I’m hoping that we can get a bill, and I’d like to get a bill this week or next week or as soon as we can,” Shelby demurred.

This post has been updated

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