photo: Kate Thomas for SEIU via Flickr

Democrats blasted Republicans, and deftly sidestepped the reality of Ben Nelson’s vote, for blocking consideration of a Wall Street reform bill yesterday, and said they planned to bring up a revote as early as today.

All of the top leaders of the party, including Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and President Obama, highlighted the obstructionism of every Republican voting against cloture on the motion to proceed, save Kit Bond and Bob Bennett, who didn’t vote. The President in particular turned the tables on Republicans, accusing them of backroom dealing instead of open debate:

“I am deeply disappointed that Senate Republicans voted in a block against allowing a public debate on Wall Street reform to begin. Some of these Senators may believe that this obstruction is a good political strategy, and others may see delay as an opportunity to take this debate behind closed doors, where financial industry lobbyists can water down reform or kill it altogether. But the American people can’t afford that. A lack of consumer protections and a lack of accountability on Wall Street nearly brought our economy to its knees, and helped cause the pain that has left millions of Americans without jobs and without homes. The reform that both parties have been working on for a year would prevent a crisis like this from happening again, and I urge the Senate to get back to work and put the interests of the country ahead of party.”

Jeff Merkley said something similar earlier today. “Instead of voting to allow the bill to be debated in public view, they want more backroom negotiations and delay as they try to kill Wall Street reform. It is nothing short of remarkable that after everything our country has been through in the last two years, Senators continue to defend the anything-goes ideology that puts the foxes in charge of the henhouse,” he said in a statement after the vote.

Democrats obviously feel they can gain traction by putting the opposition on the side of special interests and the big banks. They plan to bring a motion to reconsider to the floor as early as tomorrow. We could see three or four votes on the same motion this week. They further planned actions with dozens of consumer advocates throughout the week. US PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) will appear with Jack Reed and Bob Menendez tomorrow.

However, to actually get over this hurdle and not just engage in political posturing, Democrats probably have to bring Ben Nelson in from off the reservation. And his vote appears to be tied to a provision benefiting the richest man in Nebraska, Warren Buffett.

Senate Democrats agreed Monday to kill a provision from their derivatives bill pushed by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., a change one analyst predicted could force the Nebraska company to set aside up to $8 billion.

The Senate Agriculture Committee inserted language into its derivatives bill last week at the request of Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) that would have exempted any existing derivatives contracts from new collateral requirements—the money set aside to cover potential losses.

Berkshire has $63 billion in derivatives contracts, and Mr. Buffett has boasted he holds very little collateral against these products […]

The inclusion of the provision could have been a problem for Democrats, who saw their health-care overhaul stagger under the weight of similar home-state favors, including one for Mr. Nelson.

More from Planet Money. As Mcjoan notes, Nelson is probably trying to hide behind Republicans on this. But he also probably really wants to help out his biggest benefactor, and if he didn’t get reprimanded for mucking up health care reform, he probably feels that he’ll face no great abuse for mucking up the partisan strategy on FinReg.

So other than banging on Republicans, I don’t see much of an endgame here, although talks continue and presumably the GOP won’t hold out on this particular issue forever.

David Dayen

David Dayen