Senate votes 57-41 for Wall St reform debate, two votes short of the 60 which Democrats needed

By Jon H. Harsch

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Washington, April 26 – True to their pledge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Republicans voted together in Monday evening’s vote to allow debating the Democrats’ financial reform legislation. Not only did the 59-member majority Democrats need to attract one Republican to meet the 60-vote rule to avoid a GOP filibuster blocking debate, but today they needed two – because Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) crossed party lines to join Republicans in the cloture vote. 

This first procedural vote guarantees only one thing: that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will continue to schedule more cloture votes until he succeeds in getting 60 votes in favor of beginning floor debate. The Democrats’ hope is that after taking their initial stand against debate – on the grounds that the bill must be changed to eliminate flaws – at least a few Republicans will feel the heat from voting against a popular reform bill and switch sides. The Republicans’ hope is that in their search for the needed 60 votes, Democrats will make enough concessions on things like the bill’s tough derivatives, consumer protection, and bank-funded liquidation provisions for the Republicans to claim victory and support a final compromise bill.

Senator Reid himself voted no in today’s vote to protect his right to bring the bill back to the floor for further cloture votes. Two Republicans, Sens. Kit Bond of Missouri and Robert Bennett of Utah were not present for the vote.

Immediately following the vote, Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO) said he was surprised by today’s failure to reach the 60-vote threshold and reminded colleagues that “this is not a vote on the bill, just a vote to debate the bill.” Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) commented that “18 months after we came to the precipice of the financial meltdown ought to be enough time” to finalize corrective legislation. Calling the Wall Street reform bill “a bipartisan piece of legislation” with a great deal of agreement on key provisions, he said that instead of blocking debate, Republicans should have voted to allow debate – so that both Republican and Democrats could offer amendments to improve the bill.

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