Thank You, Sir, May We Have Another?

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The cloture vote to stop a GOP filibuster on the Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd’s bill to overhaul just failed in the Senate 57-41. The vote took nearly an hour as Senators rushed through Washington traffic to make the first vote of the week. All Republicans voted Nay. Republican Senators Bob Bennett of Utah and Kit Bond of Missouri were absent and Democratic Senators Ben Nelson and Harry Reid voted against the bill — Reid in order to be able to bring the bill back up again as is required under Senate rules.

Dems left the chamber gloating about how Republicans were “taking a stand with Wall Street against Main Street,” as Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, told reporters after voting. Indeed, with negotiations still ongoing between Dodd and the top Republican on the Banking Committee, Alabama’s Richard Shelby, one might ask: What was Senate Majority Leader Reid doing holding a vote prematurely? The answer is: Dems believe that forcing Republicans into a perceived stand with fat cat bankers is playing well with not only the Dem base but with independent voters. Indeed, an ABC/Washington Post poll out today shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans want to see the bill passed.

So, this is a scene you’re going to see replayed as often as Dems can manage before Republicans agree to pass the bill. “We will give them a night to think about it and then we’ll hit them hard with another vote on Tuesday,” said a senior Democratic aide involved in the process. “And if that fails we’ll really ramp it up — repeated UCs to go to the bill, possibly an all-nighter, live quorum calls. Our caucus seems pretty resolved; I think we stay on this until something gives.” UCs are unanimous consents: the majority of Senate business is done under UC — which is blocked when someone has an objection. Catch is: if there’s not a Republican in the chamber when a Democratic senator calls for unanimous consent to go to the bill — even if it’s 3am — then they can’t block it.

At the same time several senators have told McConnell they don’t want to see him cave and they’d like to hold out for substantial changes in the legislation — something won’t happen if Republicans swerve in this game of chicken. At the same time, Republicans say they may produce a GOP alternative.

Still, senators on both sides expressed confidence that a bill — in some form — would pass this week or next. Dems only need two Republican votes and several are close to signing on as negotiations continue. Dodd “may yet get broad bipartisan support,” Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said emerging from the vote this afternoon. “Not today, but they’re still talking.”

As Karen would surely note, this is the closest the Dems have come to make ‘em fiibuster yet.

Update:
As if to underline the point, Reid has brought up a surprise vote on a “motion to instruct the sergeant at arms to request the attendence of absent senators.”