Threatened with all-night session, Senate Republicans cave on filibuster

Jon Ward Contributor
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Senate Republicans Wednesday said they will stop filibustering the financial regulatory reform bill, backing down after Democrats said they would make them stay through the night into Thursday morning to sustain their blocking of the legislation.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said there had been a “key agreement reached.”

He cited “assurances” from Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, that he would remove provisions in the bill that the GOP believes will lead to excessive risk-taking by financial firms requiring more bailouts.

The key Republican senator involved in talks with Dodd, Richard Shelby of Alabama, said Dodd had promised him “that he will address a number of concerns I have expressed with respect to ending bailouts.”

But Shelby said talks with Dodd on other issues had “reached an impasse,” due to continued disagreement on the scope and size of a consumer protection agency and the regulation of derivative trading.

“It is now my belief that further negotiations will not produce additional results,” Shelby said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, had forced Republicans to vote Monday and Tuesday on procedural motions to move toward debate of the bill.

He was also ready to keep the Senate in session all night Wednesday, with Republicans sustaining their filibuster the way it used to be done, with continuous speeches on the floor.

All 41 Republican senators voted together as a group against the motions over the last two days, saying that they wanted Shelby to have maximum leverage in negotiations and that they had no assurances from Reid that they would be allowed to offer amendments during the floor debate.

But Shelby signaled that with negotiations no longer proving fruitful, the bill could move forward.

“I thank my Republican colleagues for their support and defer to their individual judgments on whether the Senate begins a floor debate on this bill,” he said in his e-mailed statement.

President Obama, speaking at an event in Illinois, said he was “very pleased” with the GOP’s decision to drop their filibuster.

“I want to work with anyone — Republican or Democrat — who wants to pursue these reforms in good faith,” Obama said.

Requests for comment from spokespersons for Reid and Dodd have not yet been returned.

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