Financial reform deal clears House, Iowans split on party lines

The House of Representatives approved what’s likely to be the final version of financial reform yesterday, on a mostly party-line vote of 237 to 192 (roll call). Iowa Democrats Bruce Braley (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Leonard Boswell (IA-03) voted for the compromise that emerged from a House-Senate conference committee. They had also voted for the original House version last December. Republicans Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05) voted against the new regulations on the financial sector. The Senate will take up this bill after senators return from the July 4 recess on July 12.

I haven’t blogged much about financial reform because so many important provisions didn’t make it into the original House bill and/or were ditched during the Senate amendment process. Yesterday Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin blasted the “unholy alliance between Washington and Wall Street”:

I cosponsored a number of critical amendments during Senate consideration of the bill including a Cantwell-McCain amendment to restore Glass-Steagall safeguards, Senator Dorgan’s amendment that addressed the problem of “too big to fail” financial institutions, and another “too big to fail” reform offered by Senators Brown and Kaufman that proposed strict limits on the size of those institutions. Each of those amendments would have improved the bill significantly, and each of them either failed or was blocked from even getting a vote.

After that, it wasn’t a close call for me. It would be a huge mistake to pass a bill that purports to re-regulate the financial industry but is simply too weak to protect people from the recklessness of Wall Street. […]

Since the Senate bill passed, I have had a number of conversations with key members of the administration, Senate leadership and the conference committee that drafted the final bill. Unfortunately, not once has anyone suggested in those conversations the possibility of strengthening the bill to address my concerns and win my support. People want my vote, but they want it for a bill that, while including some positive provisions, has Wall Street’s fingerprints all over it.

In fact, reports indicate that the administration and conference leaders have gone to significant lengths to avoid making the bill stronger. Rather than discussing with me ways to strengthen the bill, for example, they chose to eliminate a levy that was to be imposed on the largest banks and hedge funds in order to obtain the vote of members who prefer a weaker bill. Nothing could be more revealing of the true position of those who are crafting this legislation. They had a choice between pursuing a weaker bill or a stronger one.

While we’re on the subject of those conference talks, which catered to a handful of New England Republicans, here’s a textbook case of Republicans negotiating in bad faith:

This week, Democrats sought to confirm the support of Sen. Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts, who threatened to vote against the bill if it contained $19 billion in new fees on large banks and hedge funds. House and Senate conferees reconvened to remove that provision, but on Wednesday Senator Brown didn’t commit his vote. He said he plans to evaluate the bill over Congress’s week-long July 4 recess.

During the past few weeks David Waldman wrote an excellent series of posts on the conference process and mechanics. Political junkies should take a look, because this won’t be the last important bill hammered out by a conference committee.

As with health insurance reform, the Wall Street reform bill contains a bunch of good provisions. Chris Bowers lists many of them here. Representatives Braley, Loebsack and Boswell also highlighted steps forward in statements I have posted after the jump. On balance, it’s better for this bill to pass than for nothing to pass. But like health insurance reform, the Wall Street reform bill isn’t going to solve the big systemic problems it was supposed to solve. It’s disappointing that large Democratic majorities in Congress couldn’t produce a better bill than this one, and it’s yet another sign we need filibuster reform in the Senate.

Another parallel between health insurance reform and financial reform is that Republican talking points against it are dishonest.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

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Weekend open thread: Not ready for prime time edition

Earlier this month, State Senator Brad Zaun agreed to attend an event organized by an anti-abortion extremist, then withdrew from the event at the last minute because of a problem with the invitation wording. Here’s a clue for one of the leading Republican candidates in Iowa’s third Congressional district: the reason not to do an event with Dave Leach isn’t some technicality, it’s that Leach thinks assassinating abortion providers is justifiable homicide.

Speaking of Zaun, how does an experienced campaigner who works in real estate and is a former mayor of a wealthy Des Moines suburb raise just $52,780 CORRECTION: $50,305 for his Congressional campaign in the first quarter? It’s not as if he tapped out a huge donor base already; in the fourth quarter of 2009 Zaun only raised about $30,000. He’ll need more money than that to compete with seven-term incumbent Leonard Boswell–if he can get through the crowded primary.

Speaking of that primary, Jim Gibbons issued one of his more idiotic press statements last week (and for him that’s saying something). Gibbons’ latest attack is that Boswell is relying on support from “D.C. insider” Chris Van Hollen. This from a guy who is the favorite of the Washington-based National Republican Congressional Committee, who bragged about how many members of Congress attended his own Washington fundraiser, and had former House Speaker Dennis Hastert headline an event for him in the Des Moines area. Gibbons has raised the most money in the Republican field, but he doesn’t impress me as a campaigner, unless you’re into pandering to Christians before Easter.

Another Republican who doesn’t look ready for prime time is Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts. He said this week that he’s against the proposed financial reforms because they would be “an extra layer of regulation.” As Kevin Drum says, that’s “like saying that you don’t want better brakes on your car because ‘they’re going to slow me down.’” But Brown had more empty talking points to share:

   Brown left open the possibility that he could support a compromise.

   “I want to see when it’s going to come up, how it’s going to come up,” he said. “I’m always open to trying to work something through so it is truly bipartisan.”

   Brown, whose vote could be critical as Democrats seek to find a GOP member to avoid a filibuster, assiduously avoided talking about specifics.

   When asked what areas he thought should be fixed, he replied: “Well, what areas do you think should be fixed? I mean, you know, tell me. And then I’ll get a team and go fix it.”

Give me a break. The guy has no idea what’s in the bill or why Republicans are supposed to be against it, but he wants to make sure you know he’s all for teamwork and being “bipartisan.”

Who did I miss on the not ready for prime time front? Let me know in the comments, or share anything else that’s on your mind this weekend.

If you’re interested in the upcoming British elections, you can watch the recent party leaders’ debate here (hat tip to Christian Ucles, who is following the campaign closely).

UPDATE: Had a great day out at Whiterock Conservancy today. Saw some friends there, watched a presentation featuring five snakes native to Iowa, took a long nature walk ending near a field with bison. Stopped for locally-made ice cream at Picket Fence Creamery on the way home. Who could ask for anything more?

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