Why Voinovich Was The First GOP Egg To Crack On Financial Reform

Congressional Quarterly/Newscom

Earlier this afternoon, Republicans voted, for the third straight day, to block Democrats’ financial reform bill from getting a hearing on the Senate floor. But starting last night, Republicans began to hint that they’d ultimately relent, and none more candidly than Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH). If a bipartisan agreement can’t be reached, Voinovich said last night, “we’ll just get it out there and move on with it.”

Voinovich has long been considered a swing vote on financial reform, and a number of Republican sources, both on the Hill and off, told me weeks ago that they viewed him as, in some ways, the weakest link.But why? The retiring Voinovich has sided with the Democrats on procedural votes more than just about every other GOP Senator this Congress. He’s to the left of most of his party, and without a re-election contest to worry about, he’s mostly free to do as he sees fit. That doesn’t mean he aggressively opposes his leadership–but it does mean he knows when enough’s enough.

“If you can work it out on this basis you’re going to save a lot of time,” Voinovich told reporters last night, explaining his decision to help sustain the filibuster in its early days.

But he’s adamant that he won’t be a party to filibustering for the sake of wasting time.

“We’re not doing these clotures to delay or are not aware that there’s a problem, or that something needs to be done,” Voinovich said. We do understand that.”

Ultimately, though, if Voinovich supports an issue, he’s unencumbered.

“The idea is to try to work it out, move the ball down the field, and maybe not get everything that everybody wants but at least let the American people know that we’re working together to try and get something down and that we know they’re going to make compromises that may, on one side or the other not be happy, but we are getting something done,” Voinovich reasoned. “They want us to get something done now. “