Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 26, 2010

WHY ARE THEY AFRAID OF THE DEBATE?.... In about two hours, the Senate Democratic leadership will try to bring a bill to the floor on Wall Street reform. The goal, of course, is to start the debate. If the threats are accurate, every Republican in the chamber will vote this afternoon to block the debate from getting underway, and since there will "only" be 59 votes out 100 to get the process started, the GOP obstructionism will have its desired effect.

Efforts to find a bipartisan compromise continue -- by all accounts, there is broad agreement on most of the key elements of the proposal -- but in the meantime, Republicans now have a new strategy in mind.

Senate Republicans are working to finalize their own version of legislation to tighten regulation of the nation's financial system, and aides said their version could be put forward as a rival to the Democrats' proposal if a bipartisan deal is not reached before an important procedural vote on Monday afternoon.

Republicans, including Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, have said they would use the procedural vote to block the start of debate on the Democrats' bill unless the Democrats agree to make substantial changes in it. But in a political climate of public impatience and anger at Wall Street, it was not clear how long the Republicans could hold ranks in delaying the bill.

The development of a Republican alternative suggests that party leaders are determined to draw contrasts between their preferred approach to policing Wall Street and that of the Democrats.

Let's pause to acknowledge an often overlooked detail. The Senate has a mechanism -- it's called a floor debate -- which is actually pretty useful in a situation like this. Senators can present their ideas to their colleagues, in an entirely open and transparent process. Amendments can be proposed, considered, and voted on. Language can be altered. Provisions can be improved or eliminated. It's all part of how the process was designed to work.

Once the debate is complete, senators can vote for or against the bill, and support or oppose a filibuster.

But Republicans have a different approach in mind -- they don't want to even start the debate. Despite all the talk of the last year about transparency, GOP officials insist that all work on Wall Street reform occur behind closed doors, and the ideas that could be debated on the floor are instead hashed out in secret, in between Republican fundraisers with representatives of the very institutions affected by the legislation.

This is ridiculous. As Matt Yglesias explained this afternoon, "On financial regulation, over the months I've heard a number of Republican Senators say reasonablish things about the bill, or about problems with the bill. But it's time to put up or shut up. If you're concerned the bill doesn't address something, then write an amendment to address it. If you think the bill is too tough in some respect, then write an amendment to weaken it. There's no good reason to insist that everything be done in a secret Shelby-Dodd negotiating process."

Instead of Republicans crafting their own version of the same bill, why don't they just bring those ideas to the floor as part of the debate? Why are they so afraid of having a public discussion about bringing some safeguards and accountability to a financial industry that nearly destroyed the global economic system?

Steve Benen 3:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (19)

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Let me guess...their bill will be cheaper and stronger than the Democratic bill...(through magic)...of course, won't be a "bailout of big bank" bill...and at the end of the day/week/month, will garner zero Republican votes. Sounds familiar.

Hey, maybe this financial reform bill will be another one with no numbers in it.

Posted by: Rob Goldman on April 26, 2010 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

You can make cheap shots in public. You can put forth a serious proposal and argue its merits. It's challenging to do both at the same time.

Posted by: Measure for Measure on April 26, 2010 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK


1. The Republican Party is intellectually bankrupt. Any ideas they ever had have been tried and found to be absolutely disastrous. Since there are no new conservative ideas, their only choice is to double-down on the old discredited ideas.

2. Under these circumstances, their best bet, as they've publicly acknowledged several times, is to stymie government action at every step. It's so much easier to use procedural arcana to stop the government dead in its tracks and then campaign against the 'do-nothing Democrats.'

3. At the same time, you can tell people that the do-nothing Democrats are also tyrants who are intent are running every aspect of their lives, and by your footdragging you're bravely preventing this from happening.

4. Don't worry if points 2 and 3 cancel each other out. Most of your intended audience will never notice.

5. Meanwhile, don't forget to promote your failed ideas at every opportunity (see #1). Since you have no intention of even trying to get them passed into law, who'll ever know that lower taxes and tort reform won't really solve every problem.

Posted by: Gummo on April 26, 2010 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Our Republican friends are merely doing the job they are paid to do. They're being paid by the banks to fight tooth and nail against any kind of financial reform.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on April 26, 2010 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

So, back room deals were terrible for the Affordable Care Act, but are the Republican's preferred approach for Finance Reform?

I know, I know.... consistency is the hob goblin of little minds. :-)

Posted by: MikeBoyScout on April 26, 2010 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

The repubs have long been screaming about closed door deals, and the need for more transparency, now they are asking to have a closed door deal!

Posted by: jJS on April 26, 2010 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, Repubs had no problem with backroom deals on HIR when it came to the Baucus group of six.
Repubs LOVE secret backroom deals, as long as they're part of the secret group, so that they can ultimately derail legislation that they never supported in the first place.
The strategy almost worked for them during HIR.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on April 26, 2010 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Transparency in government and restoring integrity to the financial markets seems reasonable to me. Why would anyone vote Republican?

Posted by: David on April 26, 2010 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Tyranny through filibuster must be ended. Now. The bastards most inclined to authoritarianism and dictatorship are too comfortable with the power that they misuse.

Posted by: -syzygy- on April 26, 2010 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

If Democrats will make a case that Republicans are stonewalling everything--no matter whether it's HCR, Financial Reform, Climate Change, or Immigration--with the goal being to deny Democrats a victory on anything, then they win in this and in future contests. If they don't do it or can't do it, they lose.

The question is not whether they can do it, but is instead whether they want to do it. It's as clear as day, people.

Posted by: terraformer on April 26, 2010 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

So essentially all the Republican talk about "we're *this* close to a deal" was just a stalling tactic to give the Republicans time to write their own bill, which they know won't pass. Unless their "own bill" is essentially the same as the bill they're currently filibustering.

Posted by: Christopher on April 26, 2010 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

I'll say it again: modern conservatives are no longer interested in participating in representative democracy. Elections are meaningless unless Republicans win.

Posted by: beep52 on April 26, 2010 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

It's moments like this that get me thinking these elected officials have gotten too fat on all the unearned income their (blind?) trusts have been accruing for them! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 26, 2010 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Sure make it easy for the Repubs with Harry announcing that he wants no more debate. That's the same path Harry followed with HC. Dems are stupid and if they are Progressives, they are absolute morons. It's because of them that the country is in the position it finds itself in.

They don't want Repubs to do anything, lest the truth come out of this total and forever bailout bill that doesn't even include the biggest proponents of this bailout mess, Fannie and Freddie. They have an unlimited amount of bailout wating in the wings. This will be like HC, not reading the bill before they all sign it, finding out later that the Dems sold the American People down the river once again. Damn them all.

Wake up America before we're renamed Venezuela!

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Posted by: wzmhqgzydlp on April 26, 2010 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

MConnell on Fox News [paraphrasing] - "We're not ready to pass the bill - even the Democrats disagree on derivatives!"

Obvious counter: "So why can't you let them debate derivatives on the floor?"

Real Fox New counter: "We're gonna have to leave it there..."

(P.S. Stop selling shoes here, Mitch McConnell)

Posted by: Ohioan on April 26, 2010 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

Could the democrats agree to debate the Republican bill and then amend the crap out of it?

Posted by: mwbugg on April 26, 2010 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans have already moved farther than they did on healthcare, creating an alternate proposal. Once they present it and still don't vote to open debate on the floor, time for Obama to call another summit and debate the whole thing in public. The Rs will probably want to duck out of that if they can but they're all for transparency and a clean process, right?

Posted by: JohnCMH on April 26, 2010 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

In the Republican lizard brain, the Obama vs. Republicans box score is all that matters. Legislation that passes is a "win" for Obama and a "loss" for Republicans. The public good is something that can wait.

Posted by: bob h on April 27, 2010 at 6:21 AM | PERMALINK
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