Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Daily Strike-5/6/10-All About Wall Street

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike, writing to you tonight from San Francisco. This will be our last entry until Monday, and posts will be spotty next week since I'll be on vacation.

LATE BREAKING UPDATE: It looks like the Brown-Kaufman amendment to break up the banks has failed by a vote of 33-61, a major disappointment. No word on the vote tally yet. I had no idea they would be voting on this tonight when I wrote this entry. Very, very unfortunate.

FINANCIAL REGULATION: Wall Street went into a bit of a tailspin today, at one point the Dow was down nearly 1,000 points, though it later recovered. Some blame this on a computer glitch, while others attribute it to factors in Europe like the debt crisis. No matter what the cause, today's big losses are a reminder that our economy is still extraordinarily fragile, and that we need to keep pushing reforms to protect our financial system.

Luckily, the Senate is making some progress on that front. The Senate took two votes on amendments today. The first, offered by Senator Tester (D-MT), sought to change the definition that corporations use for "assessments." Not really sure what that will do, but it passed by a vote of 98-0.

Next, the Senate rejected the Republican alternative to the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Offered by Senator Shelby (R-AL), the alternative would limit the power and scope of the agency. The White House and Democratic leaders denounced the plan as being even worse than the status quo. The amendment failed by a vote of 38-61. Every Democrat opposed the alternative, as did Republicans Grassley (IA) and Snowe (ME). I'm pretty surprised that Grassley crossed the aisle, though he did so last month when he supported Senator Lincoln's derivatives measure.

Almost as important as the amendments considered on the floor today were the announcements of amendments to be voted upon early next week. The amendment by Senator Sanders (I-VT) to audit the Federal Reserve got a boost today when Senator Dodd (D-CT) announced his support. Dodd had secured a change to the amendment that he said would protect the independence of the Fed. The other very encouraging news today is that Senator Reid (D-NV) will most likely allow a vote on the Brown-Kaufmann amendment that would cap the size of the big banks. Reid even indicated that he would vote for the amendment himself. Reid's vote probably hinges on how strongly the administration comes out in opposition to the amendment. I'm holding out hope that Obama sees the light some time in the next week, but I'm not holding my breath.

More amendment votes will take place starting Tuesday. Of course the United States Senate can take a 4 day weekend during a long-winded debate on a critical issue. In fact, today Majority Whip Durbin (IL) said that he doesn't think they can finish the bill by next Friday.

THE HOUSE: The House was busy today considering a bill that would provide cash rebates to people who weatherize their homes. This important piece of legislation passed by a vote of 246-161. 7 Democrats voted against the measure (for reasons entirely unclear to me), and 12 brave Republicans voted for it. The bill will surely die on arrival in the United States Senate, but I'm glad the House had a chance to take it up. Perhaps the bill can be included in a broader energy bill later this year.

The House also approved a Republican motion to recommit that seeks to assure that the bill will not add to the federal deficit. The motion passed by a wide margin of 346-68.

And a quick update before we go on the General Election in Great Britain. Exit Polls show that the Conservative Party will win a plurality of seats in the parliament, but probably not enough to ensure a majority. This should create some very interesting negotiations. Stay tuned.

See you next week!

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