Washington State Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell joined with Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold to oppose ending debate on the Senate’s sweeping financial reform bill. As reported in the New York Times, they were the only two Democrats to oppose further debate and were joined by 39 Republicans. Two Republicans, Maine’s Senators Snowe and Collins voted to end debate.
Senator Cantwell strongly supports the legislation but believes it needs to be strengthened. As the New York Times notes:
Ms. Cantwell, in a floor speech after the vote, said she was mainly fighting for a vote on an amendment to tighten proposed rules for the trading of derivatives, the complex instruments that were at the center of the economic crisis.
Her proposal would make it illegal to enter into a derivatives contract that had not been cleared through an exchange, other than contracts specifically exempt from the law. It would also empower regulators and investors to stop or undo a derivatives deal if banks knowingly violated the trading requirements. …
“If you don’t have a regime of exchange trading and clearing you will have money seeping into the continuation of a dark market,” she added.
Ms. Cantwell said she would also like a vote on another amendment she proposed, with Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, that would restore the Glass-Steagall Act, which maintained a firewall between commercial banking and investment banking from the 1930s until it was repealed by Congress in 1999. In a statement, Mr. Feingold said he favored restoring that firewall.
Republican opposition to financial reform was obvious by the subsequent action of Senate Republicans. Senator Reid blamed the Republicans, not Senator Cantwell or Feingold, for stalling the legislation.
Senator Dodd agreed and to show the opposition of the Republicans, he returned to the Senate floor and asked for unanimous consent to vote on the proposed amendment of Senator Cantwell. The motion was defeated when Republican Senator Shelby of Alabama objected.
Republicans continue their strategy of opposing Democratic action on legislation, believing this contributes to the Republicans chances of gaining seats in Congress. They hope that the public does not see that the Republican stalling tactics are the primary reason Congress is not addressing our Nation’s problems in a timely fashion. Sooner or later the public is going to see beyond the Republican noise machine and Democrats will prevail.
Senator Cantwell is to be commended for her efforts to strengthen this legislation. She is acting in the public interest and showing leadership. Her amendments are reasonable and vital ones to address serious problems in the financial markets. Washington State can be proud of Senator Cantwell’s leadership on this issue.