Most US Senate Republicans are more intent on playing partisan politics than they are on doing their job and looking out for how to protect the American public from shady financial interests. Too many in the financial community were more intent on making a fast buck than on providing the public with fair consumer practices and honest deals. Lack of adequate consumer safeguards contributed to our near financial disaster.
We are still trying to recover. Most Republicans under their current leadership are more concerned about how to make President Obama look bad than they are on solving our financial problems. They are more intent on playing political games that they think will help them get back into power.
So when 3 Republicans show courage in bucking the do nothing approach of the Republican leadership, they are to be commended. So far Senators Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Maine Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe have said they will vote to prevent a filibuster from stopping passage of the proposed financial reform package.
Despite the New York Times characterization of the bill as “limping toward Senate passage“, I think garnering 60 votes in the US Senate is significant. My arithmetic saying that 60 votes is a hell of a lot more than 51 votes which would be a simple majority of the US Senate. The whole filibuster process stinks and its one of the factors contributing to the public low opinion of Congress. It’s time to end the filibuster.
As the New York Times notes this bill will accomplish a fair amount:
The legislation would create a system risk council comprising the most senior government regulators to try to identify potential dangers in the financial system. It would create a powerful consumer financial protection bureau to be housed in the Federal Reserve and would impose a new regulatory framework on the trading of derivatives, the complex instruments that were at the center of the 2008 downturn.
The bill seeks to avert future crises by giving government regulators the power to seize control of failing financial institutions, break them apart, sell off the assets and put them out of business, with shareholders and creditors taking losses.
The bill would also strengthen the Securities and Exchange Commission by giving it new authority over credit rating agencies , hedge funds and private equity companies.
It seems Democrats in Congress are on the verge of passing another major bill. As reported in the New York Times today, its “a question of when – not if – according to Senate Democrats.” With most Republicans still plugging their ears and covering their eyes and ignoring the pressing problems facing this country, every Democratic vote is critical as 60 votes are necessary to prevent a filibuster in the Senate.
Senator Maria Cantwell had previously voiced her opposition to the bill because she was concerned that not enough was being done to address the financial risk of loosely or unregulated financial instruments like derivatives which had helped to contribute to the recent financial crisis.
Now the New York Times reports that:
Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington, who originally opposed the regulatory overhaul, announced that she would support the final version. The move came after she received a letter from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission about provisions relating to new regulation of derivatives, the complex financial instruments that were at the heart of the 2008 crisis. Ms. Cantwell had been concerned about potential loopholes but said she was reassured that the bill would impose a tight regulatory framework
Final passage will still depend on several Republican votes appearing and probably a temporary replacement Senator being appointed to fill West Virginia’s Senate seat held by Senator Robert Byrd who recently died.
The seat will be filled with a temporary appointment until a special election is held in November to fill the remaining two years of Byrd’s term.
One glaring omission from the bill is the lack of oversight for car dealers by the proposed Consumer Protection Agency in the bill. It is unfortunate because after buying a house, cars are one of the major expenses of US households. This would have been a popular item with consumers. .
The New York Times has an interesting opinion piece today by David E RePass. RePass is an Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of Connecticut.
RePass’s opinion piece is entitled “Make my Filibuster” and his thesis is simple. Republicans have been repeatedly threatening to filibuster legislation essentially giving a minority veto power to 40 Senators. Yet actual filibusters he says are extremely rare. He says this threat of a filibuster is preventing government from functioning effectively and is really more appropriately called a “phantom filibuster.”
RePass notes that:
“The phantom filibuster is clearly unconstitutional. The founders required a supermajority in only five situations: veto overrides and votes on treaties, constitutional amendments, convictions of impeached officials and expulsions of members of the House or Senate. The Constitution certainly does not call for a supermajority before debate on any controversial measure can begin.
And fixing the problem would not require any change in Senate rules. The phantom filibuster could be done away with overnight by the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid. All he needs to do is call the minority’s bluff by bringing a challenged measure to the floor and letting the debate begin.”
I strongly agree with DePass. He suggests that the Democrats would be politically astute if they called the Republicans bluff. Obama is enjoying much public good will, having inherited a disaster of an economy from the Republicans. The Republican mind set of a free market economy and little or no regulation and oversight brought on this current economic nightmare.
Voters clearly said it’s time to change and Republicans still don’t get it. Their answer to the problems is to continue the tried and failed Republican free market economy approach, rather than admit that they failed and brought us this mess. It is a Republican mess and if they want to filibuster Obama’s proposals to try to fix the problem, let them go ahead.
Let them get on the Senate floor and oppose health care legislation and green jobs legislation and regulation for the financial industry and unemployment compensation for the unemployed and mortgage reform and help for homeowners losing their jobs and solutions to deal with climate change. That’s what they’ve been doing for years.
But the public mood has changed. If they didn’t get the message from last November’s election of Obama and the loss of formerly Republican seats in the House and Senate, let them see how Americans feel about their trying to stop Congress and the President from working and doing their job by proposing and passing needed solutions to our current problems.
Americans are tried of naysayers and want our problems solved. Republicans botched the economy and Americans want them to get out of the way and let the President and Congress work to clean up the mess they created. They’ll soon learn that the filibuster approach to solving problems is not one that going to earn them more votes in the next election. It’s time for Reid and the Democrats in the US Senate to call the Republicans bluff on filibustering and move on to working out urgently needed solutions to our pressing problems.