Well, when it comes to the US Senate, the Southern states are definitely pretty red. By my count, we have a Democratic Senator in Florida and North Carolina. And that's pretty much it.
So, this financial regulation thing is a bit troubling. Southerners are concerned about the influence of Wall Street on Wall Street regulation, but Southern progressives feel like the GOP Senators are working hand-in-hand with lobbyists.
What's a southerner to do?
Well, I called Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander. Here's what I found out.
First, I spoke with Sen. Alexander's Washington DC office. A staffer answered the phone, and here's how the conversation went:
Her: Senator Alexander's office, how may I help you?She then referred me to someone named Nick, who apparently is a staffer (I couldn't find his name on Legistorm, so I'm not sure how to spell his last name). I left him a message and I'm waiting to hear back.
Me: Well, my name is Ben and I'm a constituent in Nashville. I was calling to find out about this financial reform bill that's not being considered yet in the Senate. Trying to figure out what the hold-up is about. Can you help me?
Me: Well, I know, I've read that already. I'm just trying to figure out what the deal is with the vote against considering the bill on the Senate floor. I mean, how are you supposed to fix the bill if you can't debate it on the floor?
Then I called Corker's office.
Pretty much the same thing.
Her: Senator Bob Corker's office, how may I help you?The voicemail was for a staffer named Joe Dagher. Legistorm says he used to be a staffer for Mike DeWine in Ohio before Dewine lost to Sherrod Brown. (You don't suppose Sherrod Brown would be able to talk with this guy, do you?) I left a message for Dagher and that's all I know.
Me: Well, I was calling to find out about this financial reform bill that's not being considered yet in the Senate. Just trying to find out what the hold-up is. Can you help?
Her: Well, sir, Senator Corker has posted information on his website, and he has said that he is concerned that the bill doesn't go as far as it should with some regulations.
Me: Well, ma'am, I appreciate that concern. But I still don't understand the procedural issue. Why is Senator Corker voting to block having the bill considered on the Senate floor?
Her: Sir, I'm not sure about that. I can put you through to the legislative staffer who is handling the bill. Would you like to leave him a message?
Me: Yes, ma'am, I'd appreciate that. Thank you.
I've read these press releases. Corker says he wants to create minimum standards for borrowers, including a minimum down payment. I frankly think this is a terrible idea - it prohibits poor people from investing in home ownership and takes the decision-making out of the hands of the bankers who actually have relationships. Such a plan would reduce the pool of potential home-buyers, thereby creating a further deflation in home values at a time when we need more buyers. I think smarter decisions need to be made by bankers, but I disagree with the borrower requirements. So, Corker is basically holding this bill up because he wants to do something that I disagree with doing.
Alexander used some serious sleight-of-hand to attack Senator Reid on past history. He noted that
He’s got the record in saying no to more amendments, no to more debates, and no to more checks and balances on what the Congress is doing: 141 times the Majority Leader has filed cloture on the same day a measure came up—that’s simply another ‘no motion.’ It says no to more amendments, no to more debates, no to more checks and balances on the legislation that Congress is considering.Of course, that's not what Reid wants to do in this case. This vote is about opening floor debate, not closing it. So, Reid is doing what Alexander wants him to do more of, but Alexander is voting against doing it.
Talk about cynical.
That's the news from Tennessee.
Bonus! DKTV has this video from CNBC with Senator Corker (who apparently represents CNBC, not Tennessee):
Update 3:22 PM CDT: TPM and others are now reporting that the GOP is ready to allow a floor debate.