While much of the attention late last week was paid to the Senate GOP's lockstep opposition to the financial regulation bill written by Chris Dodd, yesterday we had this statement from Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) to the Gannett Washington bureau:
I can't imagine there's a Democrat or Republican in the country (who) doesn't want to end any conversation about a company being too big to fail, right? You've got to be kidding me. Everybody in the country is united around that.
In response to questions about the Mitch McConnell-Frank Luntz claim about "institutionalizing too big to fail," Corker was similarly blunt:
"That's all industry money.... To classify that as a bailout fund, in fairness, is not intellectually pure."
The full article is worth a read. More on this after the jump...
Last Thursday, Corker was interviewed on ABC's Good Morning America, where he said he'd be "stunned if we do not reach a bipartisan agreement".
As a freshman senator elected in 2006, Corker is new to the Senate Banking Committee. When he was elected as one of the few freshman Republicans in a landslide Democratic victory, Corker referred to himself as the "100th Senator" and recognized that his power would be limited. But during the financial crisis, and especially during the auto industry bankruptcy crisis in late 2008 and early 2009, Corker emerged as an outspoken critic of corporate welfare. While his anti-labor views make him an enemy of core Democratic values, Corker's been able to get some leverage because of his willingness to play ball with Chris Dodd on financial reform.
Corker has spoken to his Republican colleagues frequently about strategic errors made by the "Just Say No" strategy of obstruction and delay. In mid-March, Corker chided the Senate GOP leadership for its failure to engineer changes in the Senate Banking Committee. The bill passed through committee without significant Republican involvement and with no Republican votes. "We have missed that opportunity. I believe it to be a very large strategic mistake."
As the GOP continues to face growing grassroots pressure from both the Tea Parties on the right and the netroots in the center (Yes, that's right. I said center.), Corker will be an important barometer of several aspects of the Republican Party. Will they continue to march in lockstep, kneejerk opposition to everything proposed by the Democratic leadership? Will the GOP leadership punish dissenters like Corker, or will they listen to reason? And how will the division within the GOP ranks affect their ability to raise money for the 2010 midterms?
All these questions remain to be addressed.
Call Senator Corker at 202-224-3344 and tell him to work with the Democrats. Courtney Geduldig is the legislative staffer in charge of banking.
Update 10:28 AM CST: I've added a link (courtesy of TPM) to the letter signed by all 41 of the GOP members of the Senate. Many people are asking why Corker would sign a letter that makes a claim he knows is false. It's a great question. I think Corker's answer, simply, is that the letter is technically true (corporations are taxpayers too!) but very misleading.
Update 2 10:52 AM CST: Small update to the headline - just want everyone to understand that Corker's a Republican who's criticizing his own party.
Update 3 11:08 AM CST: I should also mention that Sen. Dodd (D-CT), who is the primary author of the bill, has put out a statement attacking the GOP/McConnell opposition letter:
We can disagree over serious, substantive issues. We can have a real debate over the real future of our country, but if this bill does not represent a bi-partisan effort, I don’t know what does.
Dodd's statement goes on to outline, in great detail, the numerous examples of bipartisan work that he has done over the past year or more, including his work with Corker. I'd say it's a must-read for anyone interested in how the legislative process has unfolded in the Senate. Dodd is a true legislator - a law-maker - and he will be missed. A dying breed, I'm afraid.
Update 4 11:24 AM CST: News is breaking out all over the place today on financial reform legislation. The White House is running a gamut today where they propose removing a $50 billion banking industry fee (the fee would fund failing banks, thereby creating pressure within the industry itself to avoid bank failures) in order to satisfy the "no taxpayer bailouts" demand of the GOP. TPM has a story on the concessions reporting that the GOP, unsurprisingly, wants to "go back to the drawing board". And mcjoan has a good front page diary on this whole situation and what it means.