Politics

Obama confident about financial regulation bill, but votes move the wrong direction

Jon Ward Contributor

President Obama Tuesday professed total confidence that the financial regulation bill awaiting a final vote in Congress will not be endangered by the death of Sen. Robert Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, but a key Republican swing vote announced he will not vote for the measure.

“We will get this done,” Obama told reporters at the White House.

“I’m confident that, given the package that was put together, that senators, hopefully on both sides on the aisle, will recognize that it’s time we put in place rules that prevent taxpayer bailouts,” he said, after meeting with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

But Byrd’s death on Monday has imperiled the passage of the piece of legislation, taking the Democratic majority from 59 to 58 votes. The odds against the bill got even worse on Tuesday.

One of the four Republicans who Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, almost certainly needs to pass the bill — Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts — said he will vote against the bill in its current form.

Brown sent a letter to Democratic lawmakers who crafted the bill expressing “strong opposition to the $19 billion bank tax that was included in the financial reform bill during the conference committee.”

“This tax was not in the Senate version of the bill, which I supported. If the final version of this bill contains these higher taxes, I will not support it,” Brown said.

Sen. Russell Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, said he will not vote for the legislation because he does not believe it prevents taxpayer-funded bailouts of large financial institutions.

“My test for the financial regulatory reform bill is whether it will prevent another crisis,” Feingold said. “The conference committee’s proposal fails that test and for that reason I will not vote to advance it.”

That leaves Reid with only 56 Democratic votes, and only three other Republicans who might vote for it: Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

Spokespersons for those three senators have not yet responded to requests for comment.

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