Tags: US | Financial | Overhaul

Democrats, Again, Look for 60 Votes for Bank Bill

Monday, 28 Jun 2010 07:33 PM

A sweeping overhaul of financial regulations faced new obstacles in the Senate on Monday — the loss of one and potentially two crucial votes to guarantee its passage.

The death of Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and new misgivings by Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts put the bill's fate in doubt. Brown and Byrd were among the 61 senators who had supported an original Senate version of the bill.

The House was likely to vote on the bill as early as Tuesday; the Senate vote would follow, though no date has been set. Congressional leaders had wanted to send the bill to President Barack Obama by July 4, but the final vote may now be delayed.

Without Byrd's and Brown's votes, Democrats would have to scramble for the 60 votes needed to overcome the procedural obstacles that could defeat the legislation. The bill, the biggest change in banking regulations since the Great Depression, is a top priority of President Barack Obama.

Brown said Monday that he could not support a provision added last week by House-Senate negotiators that would impose a $19 billion fee on large banks and hedge funds that could get passed on to consumers. The fee was inserted by House-Senate negotiators who finished assembling a final bill on Friday.

The money would pay for the costs of the legislation.

"I was disappointed and surprised that they at the last minute put in some assessment, fees, taxes, whatever you want to call them, really without even letting us know," Brown said Monday shortly after officially introducing Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Asked whether his stance meant he would vote against a filibuster of the bill, Brown said: "I'm not sure."

House officials said the vote could come as early as Tuesday, but could be pushed to Wednesday. That would still leave enough time for the Senate to act by Friday, but first leaders must find enough votes for passage and learn whether there Byrd's funeral might cause delays.

Senate Democrats have been in this situation before. They had to scour for votes to pass the Senate's version last month.

To secure Brown's vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada assured him that the bill would not hurt financial institutions in Massachusetts that trade with their own money and that invest in hedge funds and private equity funds.

The House-Senate conference committee that combined the final bill added exemptions in the bill to permit some trading and investing within limits.

Negotiators also made sure provisions backed by other senators remained in the bill for fear of losing them as well.

The Senate has 57 Democrats and two independents who typically vote with them, for a total of 59 votes. That means they need at least one Republican to vote with them to overcome procedural obstacles Republicans might erect.

On the financial regulation bill, two Democrats — Sens. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Maria Cantwell of Washington — voted against the Senate version, saying it wasn't tough enough on banks.

Cantwell, however, did vote with Democrats on one procedural move. Her spokesman, John Diamond, said she was reviewing the new bill and had not taken a position.

Cantwell is likely to hear a pitch for the bill Tuesday when she attends a White House meeting with senators working on energy legislation.

Feingold on Monday left no doubt that he would continue to oppose the bill.

"My test for the financial regulatory reform bill is whether it will prevent another crisis," he said in a statement. "The conference committee's proposal fails that test and for that reason I will not vote to advance it."

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin said Monday he has no timetable to consider a replacement for Byrd.

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