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It was inevitable.  James Taranto of WSJ knows that the current market crisis is an albatross around John McCain's neck.  Today, he tried his best to deflect attention to the Democratic Party's vote on a bill which lies at the nucleus of Wall Street's bloodletting - naming Joe Biden and Harry Reid as having supported that bill, and exonerating John McCain.

Problem is, he is lying. Follow me across the fold and I'll explain.

Forewarning: I work in the financial industry, and am partial to fiscal conservatism.  However, I hate being lied to, and I don't exactly have a soft spot in my heart for liars - especially those who work in or around my field of business.  Proving my honesty to the general public is difficult enough as it is, without partisan clowns and snake-oil salesmen tilting the odds against me.  So thanks very much, James Taranto.  You just goaded me - a fiscal conservative - into posting my first DailyKos diary.  


Anyhoo, on to the story.  

You probably recognize this man.

That's Phil Gramm.  The man who believes America to be a "nation of whiners."  The man who introduced the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act to the Republican-dominated US Senate, and enabled its passage in the Senate, on the 6th of May, 1999.  Remember that date.

Today, Harry Reid tore a strip out of Gramm and that radioactive bill, blaming it for the current market crisis:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) picked up on that line during a scathing floor speech Tuesday morning that compared Sen. McCain's (R-Ariz.) approach to the economy with that of the Hoover administration. In his speech, Reid blasted the Republican candidate's decision to choose Gramm as a top economic adviser.

"The same Phil Gramm who, as a senator, was responsible for deregulation in the financial services industries that paved the way for much of this crisis to occur," Reid said. "It was Phil Gramm who pushed legislation through a Republican Senate that allowed firms like Enron to avoid regulation and destroy the life savings of its employees, and it was Phil Gramm’s legislation that now allows Wall Street traders to bid up the price of oil, leaving us to pay the bill."

Reid is correct.  Gramm-Leach-Bliley effectively repealed the second Glass-Steagall Act which, among other things, barred investment banks and retail banks from merging.  Gramm-Leach-Bliley effectively removed this restriction, allowing a single institution to both create a debt-based investment, and then facilitate its sale. Previously, with two institutions involved in that process (Three if you count the investment rating company - Moody's for example), there would have to be a high degree of clarity involved. One institution (Investment bank) wouldn't just buy, repackage, and re-sell another institution's (Retail bank) products without first understanding exactly what it was.  It would also be far less likely to hold those assets and count them as capital.

With a single institution operating on both the commercial and investment banking fronts, the motive for clarity was eliminated.

Well, given that Reid is the Republican Party's favourite piñata, given that he squeals so well when the phrase "Do Nothing Congress" is tied to his name, one would naturally expect some blowback for that statement.  James Taranto, of the Wall Street Journal, wasted no time:

Given those highly impolitic remarks, you can hardly blame Democrats for wanting to remind people about Gramm. But this particular line of attack is a bit problematic. As an unnamed McCain aide points out to the Hill, the chief House co-sponsor of the bill, then-Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa, is a co-founder of Republicans for Obama. If he has had second thoughts about banking deregulation, he did not mention them in his Democratic Convention speech.

In the Senate, Gramm-Leach-Bliley passed by a vote of 90-8 before being signed into law by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. Among those voting "aye" were Scathing Sen. Harry Reid and Sen. Joe Biden, Barack Obama's running mate. John McCain was absent, off campaigning for the 2000 New Hampshire primary.

Two items of note.

  1. This is the page that Taranto linked to in that first bold quote (90-8) as evidence of who did and did not vote for passage of the bill.
  1. Using the roll call from that linked page, he says "John McCain was absent"

Problem is, that page is not a transcript of the roll call vote for the bill.  This is.  It took place on May 6, 1999.  The page that Taranto linked to was a vote on the conference report, which took place 6 months after the bill had already passed in the senate, and just over a week before it was signed into law.  The bill was not passed 90-8; it was passed 54-44, almost strictly down party lines (The lone Democrat to vote for the bill was Ernest Hollings of South Carolina).

This is the roll call from the actual Senate vote:

Abraham (R-MI), Yea
Akaka (D-HI), Nay
Allard (R-CO), Yea
Ashcroft (R-MO), Yea
Baucus (D-MT), Nay
Bayh (D-IN), Nay
Bennett (R-UT), Yea

Biden (D-DE), Nay

Bingaman (D-NM), Nay
Bond (R-MO), Yea
Boxer (D-CA), Nay
Breaux (D-LA), Nay
Brownback (R-KS), Yea
Bryan (D-NV), Nay
Bunning (R-KY), Yea
Burns (R-MT), Yea
Byrd (D-WV), Nay
Campbell (R-CO), Yea
Chafee, J. (R-RI), Yea
Cleland (D-GA), Nay
Cochran (R-MS), Yea
Collins (R-ME), Yea
Conrad (D-ND), Nay
Coverdell (R-GA), Yea
Craig (R-ID), Yea
Crapo (R-ID), Yea
Daschle (D-SD), Nay
DeWine (R-OH), Yea
Dodd (D-CT), Nay
Domenici (R-NM), Yea
Dorgan (D-ND), Nay
Durbin (D-IL), Nay
Edwards (D-NC), Nay
Enzi (R-WY), Yea
Feingold (D-WI), Nay
Feinstein (D-CA), Nay
Fitzgerald (R-IL), Present
Frist (R-TN), Yea
Gorton (R-WA), Yea
Graham (D-FL), Nay
Gramm (R-TX), Yea
Grams (R-MN), Yea
Grassley (R-IA), Yea
Gregg (R-NH), Yea
Hagel (R-NE), Yea
Harkin (D-IA), Nay
Hatch (R-UT), Yea
Helms (R-NC), Yea
Hollings (D-SC), Yea
Hutchinson (R-AR), Yea
Hutchison (R-TX), Yea
Inhofe (R-OK), Not Voting
Inouye (D-HI), Nay
Jeffords (R-VT), Yea
Johnson (D-SD), Nay
Kennedy (D-MA), Nay
Kerrey (D-NE), Nay
Kerry (D-MA), Nay
Kohl (D-WI), Nay
Kyl (R-AZ), Yea
Landrieu (D-LA), Nay
Lautenberg (D-NJ), Nay
Leahy (D-VT), Nay
Levin (D-MI), Nay
Lieberman (D-CT), Nay
Lincoln (D-AR), Nay
Lott (R-MS), Yea
Lugar (R-IN), Yea
Mack (R-FL), Yea

McCain (R-AZ), Yea

McConnell (R-KY), Yea
Mikulski (D-MD), Nay
Moynihan (D-NY), Nay
Murkowski (R-AK), Yea
Murray (D-WA), Nay
Nickles (R-OK), Yea
Reed (D-RI), Nay

Reid (D-NV), Nay

Robb (D-VA), Nay
Roberts (R-KS), Yea
Rockefeller (D-WV), Nay
Roth (R-DE), Yea
Santorum (R-PA), Yea
Sarbanes (D-MD), Nay
Schumer (D-NY), Nay
Sessions (R-AL), Yea
Shelby (R-AL), Yea
Smith (R-NH), Yea
Smith (R-OR), Yea
Snowe (R-ME), Yea
Specter (R-PA), Yea
Stevens (R-AK), Yea
Thomas (R-WY), Yea
Thompson (R-TN), Yea
Thurmond (R-SC), Yea
Torricelli (D-NJ), Nay
Voinovich (R-OH), Yea
Warner (R-VA), Yea
Wellstone (D-MN), Nay
Wyden (D-OR), Nay

Just so we're clear here - Biden and Reid voted against that bill.  McCain was, in fact, present for the vote.

He voted for it.

A simple Google search of "Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act" would lead, within two clicks, to the correct link that I provided above.  Those two clicks would yield both the correct date of the bill, and the Senate roll call. To find that conference report roll call actually took some digging, and I'm just not going to give Taranto the benefit of the doubt that this was an honest mistake.  He pulled a simple bait-and-switch, hoping no one would notice.

James Taranto is a liar.  The Wall Street Journal just allowed one of its staff to perpetuate a blatant lie on its behalf.

I thought you should all know that.

Update:  Whoops, sorry guys.  The link to the correct Senate roll call was the same as the wrong one.  That has been amended.  Thanks for the comments - I've just rifled off an e-mail to the Wall Street Journal, informing them of their screwup.  Let's see if it takes.

Update 2: Reclisted!  Thanks so much, ladies and gents.  

Update 3: I'm seeing a lot of comments about the significance of Democrats having voted for the Conference Report.  I'll just go ahead and repost my reply to robertacker13:

"The Conference Report is nothing but an editing session.  During the session, a a team picked from both the House and Senate meet in order to reconcile differences between the versions of the bills already passed in both chambers.  This is the reason it took from May until November to get the bill passed.  This is the reason GLBA passed that 4 November vote with such an overwhelming majority - it had already been approved in both houses, and the only formality left was for language to be amended by the conferees.  

The 4 November vote was not a vote on the merits of the bill.  It was a vote on the language of the bill.

Blocking the conference report does not kill a vote.  Even if the report was voted against by every last Democrat, it was going to get pushed through anyway."

Update 4:  BillyT writes:  

"James Taranto wrote back to my 'questions' about his info. He states that

'I'll clear up the confusion in my column tomorrow. Have a great night. Cheers, James'"


I may or may not post another diary on this, if he does update the column.  I'll be out of the office most of tomorrow morning, so if anyone else catches it, feel free to diarize.

Update 5: Taranto posted a rather milquetoast reply to this diary in yesterday's column - and continues to miss the point.  Here's my response to it.

Originally posted to AndreNeil on Tue Sep 16, 2008 at 07:07 PM PDT.

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