Democrats fail to overcome financial regulation filibuster; no more ‘Cornhusker Kickbacks’ for Ben Nelson
A Democratic motion to proceed to debate on a financial reform bill, ‘the Dodd bill’, just failed on a 57 to 41 vote in the Senate (see Greg Sargent’s good write-up here).
Republican Senators were unified in opposing the bill, including Maine Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who Democrats hoped might be persuaded to cross the aisle. They were joined by Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, a Democrat. Nelson reportedly was concerned with a measure that would have been harmful to Berkshire Hathaway, the financial firm controlled by ‘Oracle of Omaha’ Warren Buffett, and their derivatives holdings.
This is where the game gets dangerous for Democrats.
For any meaningful victory, The Democrats need to make the case that they are favoring Main Street over Wall Street. This is neither an easy case to make, nor one that is persuasive on its face given the enmeshment of various Democratic political interests with Wall Street. Buffett, Nelson’s reason for voting no on cloture, has been a champion of President Obama after all.
Republicans, in the meanwhile, are eagerly seeking to cast themselves as opponents of Wall Street, and Democrats as their enablers – canards like Democrats creating a fund for permanent bailouts of Wall Street firms. Of course, Republicans as a matter of principle don’t favor more regulation of Wall Street. But the GOP has been trafficking in cognitive dissonance since President Obama was elected, and will attempt to cast whatever alternative financial reform they propose as solving all of the dangers to our economy caused by our current shaky regulatory hands..
And if Harry Reid and the Democrats make satisfying Ben Nelson their priority, the GOP is going to have more currency to buy ammunition for that battle. It will be the ‘Cornhusker Kickback part deux.’ If the Democrats have any hope of producing a political win out of financial regulation reform, they not only need to cast the Republican Party’s counter-proposal as harmful to Main Street. They need to make it clear that they aren’t satisfying the provincial concerns of individual members on their own side who are holding out for giveaways to special interests. If this bill gets cast as the Buffett Buy-back, the Democrats will get crushed.