In a vote of 59-39, the Senate passed the financial reform bill. At the last moment, Wall Street got another win. They convinced Sen. Brownback to pull his car-dealer protection act so that the Merkley-Levin Volker rule amendment would also be withdrawn. Since it had been attached as a second degree amendment to Brownback, it's fate was linked.
It's not as strong a bill on the whole as it certainly should have been. But two warriors against Wall Street are philosophical in their view of the bill. Here's Byron Dorgan and Bernie Sanders, talking to TPM's Brian Beutler.
"I forced a vote on naked credit default swaps--banning naked credit default swaps," Dorgan told me after casting in with his party. Dorgan's amendment was tabled, but he regards the vote on a motion to table as a referendum on the legislation itself. Those 57 senators who voted to table his legislation were, in effect, voting against it.
But ultimately, he simply wasn't interested in killing it. "This bill is short of what Congress should do, but it moves in the right direction, although it moves less aggressively than I would like to see it move," Dorgan added. "Unlike some years ago when the issue was a piece of legislation, Gramm-Leach-Bliley, was I think just fundamentally wrong. I was very interested in stopping it. In this case I'm very interested in starting a piece of legislation that is constructively financial reform."
"I think this is a step forward, there's no question about that," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) told reporters after today's vote. "I think it brings much greater regulation, I think it brings much greater transparency. But I think, frankly, it is nowhere near as strong as it could be. I think at the end of the day we are going to have to address the need to break up these very very huge financial institutions, which I believe, that if they start teetering in the future they will have to be bailed out, and that's why you ought to break them up now."
Dorgan agrees. "As long as our country has financial institutions too big to fail, I think you're going to have failure," Dorgan told me. "And I think ultimately the taxpayers will be called upon to bail them out."
Major Wall Street reform hasn't been achieved by a long shot. Some things will be better for Main Street, for all us schlubs out there who want to understand our credit card agreements or mortgage contracts. That's very good news for consumers (that and that sleazy car dealers can't prey on unsuspecting consumers as easily). But, since the House bill isn't significantly stronger in many of these areas, the final package will fall short of being true Wall Street reform.
Next step is conference, and watching to see whether Blanche Lincoln's derivatives reform remains intact.
Update: Votes, via Scarce in the comments:
Ayes: Dems and Brown, Collins, Snowe, Grassley
Nays: Repubs and Cantwell, Feingold