Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Daily Strike-5/5/10-FinReg Amendments Begin

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. I apologize for my negligence yesterday, but unfortunately you will have to get used to it. I'm going on vacation next week!

THE SENATE: The Senate finally began consideration of amendments to the Financial Regulation bill, after a week and a half of stalling and obstruction. Republicans refused to allow votes on amendments, even when offered a chance to subject those votes to a 60 vote threshold. If Democrats wanted to vote on amendments, they'd have to invoke cloture, which would take 60 votes and three days worth of time, per amendment. Republicans finally allowed for the consideration of a few amendments after a deal was struck early in the day between the top Democrat on the Banking Committee, Chris Dodd (CT), and the top Republican Richard Shelby (AL). Dodd agreed to remove the provision that would have set up a liquidation fund, paid for by big financial institutions, that would unwind firms that were "too big to fail." That provision has been taken out, though at this point it is unclear what the replacement provision is.

As part of the agrement, Republicans allowed votes on two Obama administration nominees and two amendments. The two nominees (Gloria Navarro of Nevada, and Nancy Freudenthal to be District Judges in Nevada and Wyoming respectively) each were confirmed overwhelmingly. Navarro's vote was unanimous, while Freudenthal's was opposed only by Senator Coburn (R-OK).

The Senate then voted on the first amendment to the bill, offered by Senator Boxer (CA). The amendment clarifies that the bill does not provide for taxpayer bailouts. The amendment doesn't really have any substantive effect. Rather, it gives Democrats the ability to refute the bogus Republican charge that the bill is one giant "taxpayer bailout." The Boxer amendment passed by a vote of 96-1, with only Senator Kyl (R-AZ) voting no (not sure what that's about). The Shelby-Dodd agreement we alluded to above passed by a margin of 93-5, with Senators Coburn (R-OK), Cornyn (R-TX), DeMint (R-SC), Dorgan (D-ND), and Hatch (R-UT).

There are no further amendment votes scheduled at this point. The two most contentious amendments may not get votes at all. An amendment offered by the odd duo of Senator Sanders (I-VT) and DeMint (R-SC) would call for an audit of the Federal Reserve. I agree generally that we should know how the Fed is pumping money into the economy, but I am afraid that the amendment seeks to undermine the independence of the Federal Reserve, which is crucial to monetary stability. I'm conflicted on this one.

I'm not conflicted on the other contentious amendment. Senators Brown (OH) and Kaufman (DE) still intend to offer the SAFE Banking Act as an amendment, which would limit the size of financial institutions. In what has been a major disappointment, the Obama administration has opposed this amendment behind the scenes. I guess they believe that the size of banks was not the main culprit in the financial crisis. I disagree. This amendment would assure that the fate of the economy would no longer be in the hands of a few firms that make a bunch of risky bets.

Hopefully we'll see votes on these amendments in the next couple of days.

THE HOUSE: The House just dealt with suspension bills today. Tomorrow, they'll consider the "Cash for Caulkers" bill that will authorize reimbursements to families who weatherize their homes.

We did get some sad news out of the House today. Rep. David Obey, a liberal stalwart who has been in the House since 1969, announced his unexpected retirement. Obey is the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations committee. His retirement opens up another potentially competitive seat, especially since the Republicans have already found a viable challenger. Obey was always on the right side of the issues. He was a passionate advocate for shrinking the massive gap between the rich and poor in our society, for campaign finance reform, and for investing money in critical areas underfunded by Republican administrations and Congresses. He will be missed.

That's it for today. See you tomorrow evening!

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