Two Democrats voted against ending debate on Wall Street reform in
the Senate on Wednesday, helping defeat a motion for cloture that could
have cleared the way for a final vote before the end of the week and
capping off a day of stubborn opposition from all sides.
Democrats Maria Cantwell (Wash.) and Russ Feingold (Wisc.) joined all
but two Republicans to defeat the cloture motion filed by Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), 57-42. A successful cloture motion
would prevent rank-and-file Democrats from continuing to offer
amendments to strengthen the bill.
Harry Reid had made the vote a leadership test, making the Democratic
defections that much more meaningful. Reid vented his frustration.
"I know how to count votes," Reid said. "A Senator broke his word
with me. Broke it."
Though Reid didn't specify which senator broke his word, the
Majority Leader did have a tense discussion with Scott Brown on the
chamber floor and Brown had previously told reporters he was a "yes"
vote. Reminded of that after the presser, Reid said: "I'm not referring
to anyone about anything."
Due to a procedural necessity, Harry Reid had to switch his vote to a
"no." Maine GOP Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe voted "yes."
Alaska Senator Mark Begich barely made it in time to vote, telling
reporters afterward he had "something with my family." Arlen Specter was
There were some unusually Johnsonian moments of wrangling on the
floor during the nearly hour-long vote. Reid pressed his case hard on
Snowe, the lone holdout vote present, with Bob Corker and Mitch
McConnell at her side. After finding Brown, he put his arm around him
and shook his head, then found Cantwell seated alone at the opposite end
of the floor. He and New York's Chuck Schumer encircled her, Reid
leaning over her with his right arm on the back of her chair and Schumer
leaning in with his left hand on her desk. Cantwell stared straight
ahead, not looking at the men even as she spoke. Schumer called in Chris
Dodd, who was unable to sway her. Feingold hadn't stuck around.
Cantwell, according to a spokesman, wanted a guarantee on an amendment that would fix a gaping hole in
the derivatives section of the bill, which requires the trades to be
cleared, but applies no penalty to trades that aren't, making Blanche
Lincoln's reform package little better than a list of suggestions.
"Basically, they blocked their own members from being able to bring
up amendments, and I think that led to the chaos you just saw on the
floor," said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) after the vote, who described the
Democrats as looking "cranky."
Republicans began objecting to and successfully blocking consumer-friendly amendments on Tuesday.
The amendment process until then had proceeded remarkably smoothly.
"I don't think it's a good idea to cut off good consumer amendments
because of cloture," said Cantwell on Tuesday night.
Other amendments offered by Democrats would ban banks from proprietary
trading, cap ATM fees at 50 cents, impose new limits on the payday
lending industry, prohibit naked credit default swaps and reinstate
Glass-Steagall regulations that prohibit banks from owning investment
"We need to eliminate the risk posed to our economy by 'too big to
fail' financial firms and to reinstate the protective firewalls between
Main Street banks and Wall Street firms," said Feingold in a statement
after the vote. Feingold supported the amendment to reinstate
Glass-Steagall, among others.
"Unfortunately, these key reforms are not included in the bill," he
said. "The test for this legislation is a simple one -- whether it will
prevent another financial crisis. As the bill stands, it fails that
test. Ending debate on the bill is finishing before the job is done."
The prop trading amendment, sponsored by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.)
and Carl Levin (D-Mich.), will likely get a second chance as a
post-cloture attachment to Kansas Republican Sam Brownback's amendment
to exempt auto dealers from the oversight of the proposed Consumer
Financial Protection Bureau.
UPDATE: Here is the amendment that Cantwell is fighting to
have attached. "Senators Cantwell and John McCain (R-AZ) have filed
another amendment not yet debated that would reinstate the
Glass-Steagall Act's separation of commercial and investment banking. In
her floor speech, Cantwell said she would like a vote on this measure,
but that her primary concern was the derivatives issue," said a
statement from her office.
UPDATE II: Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) confessed to reporters that he
was the one who told Reid he'd support cloture, but then changed his
mind. He said that he had assumed progress would be made in the bill on
behalf of Massachusetts financial services companies, but the changes
weren't made and Reid's staff didn't return his staff's phone calls.
UPDATE III: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) managed to get a vote
Wednesday night on his amendment to allow states to set interest-rate
caps on out-of-state credit cards. Sounds straight forward? Only 35
senators voted for it, with 60 opposed. Here's how each voted.