Senate breaks impasse on financial regulation bill

interns Contributor
Font Size:

WASHINGTON (AP) – Barely breaking a logjam, the Senate ended debate on a massive financial regulation bill, clearing the way for final passage of a top Obama administration priority.

The vote was 60-40, the minimum needed to succeed. Three Republicans—Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins—voted for the bill. Two Democrats—Sens. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Maria Cantwell of Washington—voted with Republicans against the measure.

At least two contentious amendments remained before the Senate could vote to approve the sweeping bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., expressed hope of completing the legislation later Thursday.

The bill, the most ambitious effort to write rules for Wall Street since the Great Depression, calls for new ways to watch for risks in the financial system and makes it easier to liquidate large failing financial firms.

It also writes new rules for complex securities blamed for helping precipitate the 2008 economic crisis, and it creates a new consumer protection agency.

Democrats succeeded by winning Brown’s backing. The Massachusetts Republican voted against ending debate on Wednesday after indicating he planned to vote in its favor. Without his vote, and with Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter absent, the bill temporarily stalled.

Brown met with Reid Thursday morning, however, and received assurances that his concerns would at some point be addressed.

Cantwell and Feingold continued to object to the bill. Cantwell protested her inability to get a vote on an amendment that she said would toughen regulation of complex securities known as derivatives. Feingold has said the bill does not go far enough to rein in Wall Street.

Two amendments stood between the bill and final passage. One would ban commercial banks from carrying speculative trades with their own money. The other would exempt auto dealers from oversight of a new consumer protection bureau.

Senators faced a complicated calculation on the bank trading and the auto dealer amendments. The trading proposal, if passed, would be added to the auto dealer measure.

Support for each measure, however, comes from different factions in the Senate, with some overlap. That meant that senators who want to exclude car dealers from the rules of a consumer protection bureau, mostly Republicans, would have to accept the bank trading limits, a mostly Democratic proposal.

The Obama administration on Thursday expressed support for the trading restriction, but said it would accept its demise if it meant killing an auto dealer measure it opposes.