If At First You Don’t Succeed

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this afternoon made a second pass at starting debate on financial reregulation but to no avail: the vote ended exactly as it did yesterday 57-41, mostly along party lines. The scene is starting to feel a bit like Groundhog Day: isn’t doing the same thing repeatedly expecting different results the definition of insanity?

“This bill needed a lot of work before we turn to it on the floor,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters.

Less than 30 minutes later standing in the same spot, Reid fired back: “The Republicans are saying, as one senator said to me last night, ‘Well, we want a product before we allow it to go forward,’” Reid said. “That is really unsenatorial. That is very unlegislative, that they want in the United States Senate an agreement before they’ll even let us go to the floor… We want to bring the bill to the floor so we can discuss it, debate it, amend it, and if necessary, improve it. We want to do it in the open.”

It’s a foregone conclusion that the Dems will prevail in their quest to debate the bill – George Voinovich of Ohio, amongst other moderate Republicans, has told McConnell he’ll give him a few cloture votes but after that he does think holding the debate is important. Not to mention that polls show the issue resounds with voters and today’s Goldman hearing was like a giant exclamation point, underlining the dire need for legislation.

So why drag it out? McConnell says he wants to give Senator Richard Shelby, whose been negotiating with Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, more time. McConnell also seemed to note today with some surprise that the bill “is mostly about Main Street,” saying Republicans wanted to examine its impacts further (he must have missed the last week where Dems have been howling that this is all about protecting Main Street – “seven million homes lost, 20% of retirement savings, $11 trillion in household wealth and 8.3 million jobs,” as Dodd likes to repeat – from another banking meltdown).

Republicans also unveiled a 20-page outline of a GOP alternative which would also regulate derivatives; would ban the use of taxpayer funds for bailing out megabanks; and calls for a weakened version of consumer protection than proposed by Dodd.

Meanwhile, the unvarnished glee with which Dems have approached these repeated votes, which they believe demonstrate irrevocably that the Republicans are in bed with Wall Street, is starting to have some unintended consequences: many of the moderate Republicans they’re counting on for final passage are starting to get turned off by the degree of rancor and partisanship. So, though they may be winning the battle – they will eventually get their debate – they might be losing the war if they don’t have the votes to pass a bill.