Updated: Financial Regulatory Reform Passes the Senate

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Aided by “ayes” from Republicans Scott Brown, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, Senate Democrats succeeded in ending debate on financial regulatory reform by a 60-40 vote Thursday afternoon. Democratic Senators Maria Cantwell and Russ Feingold remained in opposition to the procedural motion, hoping to secure more time to consider amendments.

The sweeping financial sector overhaul could get a final Senate vote as early as tonight and must get a vote within 30 hours of cloture being invoked. It needs a minimum of 50 votes to pass. There are a few amendments still to be taken up post-cloture, including Sam Brownback’s consumer finance regulation exemption for auto-dealers, and Jeff Merkley and Carl Levin’s amendment clarifying restrictions to proprietary trading under the so-called “Volcker Rule.” Cantwell’s outstanding issue is with regulation of derivatives — she says a loophole would allow firms to ignore new rules without penalty. It is unlikely to be addressed before tonight.

After a final vote on the Senate bill, the legislation will likely be combined with a bill passed by the House last year. The politics and substance of financial reform have undergone significant shifts since then, and the final product will probably hew more toward the upper chamber’s bill. There is a possibility the House merely passes the Senate language as is, but there’s no indication that’s currently being considered.

President Obama plans to make a statement at 4:20 p.m. ET from the Rose Garden.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE 1: In hastily scheduled afternoon remarks from the Rose Garden, President Obama hailed today’s vote as a victory over special interests:

Over the last year, the financial industry has repeatedly tried to end this reform with hordes of lobbyists and millions of dollars in ads. When they couldn’t kill it, they tried to water it down with special-interest loopholes and carve-outs aimed at undermining real change. Today, I think it’s fair to say that these efforts have failed.

Our goal is not to punish the banks but to protect the larger economy and the American people from the kinds of upheavals that we’ve seen in the past few years. And today’s action was a major step forward in achieving that goal.

UPDATE 2: The Senate a passed sweeping financial regulatory reform bill 59-39 Thursday night. Republicans Scott Brown, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Chuck Grassley voted yes. Democrats Maria Cantwell and Russ Feingold remained in opposition. Leaders and relevant committee members from the House and Senate will meet in the coming weeks to merge their two pieces of legislation. Democrats hope to have President Obama sign a final bill by July 4.

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