Cloture Filed On Wall Street Reform, But Lots More Battles Expected

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as expected, filed cloture on the financial regulatory reform bill in the Senate, meaning that the cloture vote could happen as early as Wednesday night. However, in filing cloture, he also said that there will be voting on amendments tomorrow and even on Wednesday. Because Democratic Senators out on the campaign trail means less potential votes for strengthening amendments, Wednesday had to be offered as a day for those amendment votes. It’s likely that several Senate liberals won’t vote for cloture without a vote on their amendment. Reid also noted that amendments could be offered even after cloture is invoked, though that doesn’t seem terribly likely.

Votes did occur on amendments on the Senate floor tonight, but these were generally non-controversial amendments with broad bipartisan support. A weakening amendment to put Fannie and Freddie’s budget on the books was defeated on a point of order.

A few other things of note happened tonight:

• The Whitehouse amendment, which would change the rules for the credit card industry, so that they had to follow the rules of the state where the cardholder resides, rather than the state where they have set their corporate headquarters, has been modified. So has Sam Brownback’s amendment, which would exempt auto dealers from federal consumer protection laws. Typically, modifications of this type are offered to gain support for a controversial amendment, but we do now yet know what exactly has changed in these amendments.

Brownback in particular stressed that he wanted a majority vote on his amendment, rather than a 60-vote threshold. It’s unlikely he’ll get his wish if a Democrat who wants to preserve the ability of the CFPA to regulate auto deals wants to object to it.

• The Tom Carper amendment that would pre-empt state consumer protection laws with the federal consumer protection bureau now has a side-by-side amendment, from Bob Corker. This is a typical move when the majority wants to kill an amendment, but it’s coming from Corker, a member of the minority, so it may be even worse than Carper’s, which is bad enough. What this does signal is that pre-emption will probably get a vote, rather than being stuck into a manager’s amendment at the end of the process.

• Sources close to the debate have released a pretty good target list for the Merkley-Levin amendment, which is basically the Volcker rule. There are apparently two definite No’s among Democrats (Hagan, Warner) and one definite GOP Yes (Lugar). If a 60-vote threshold is required, which is likely, Merkley-Levin would need two more Republicans supporting among the remaining votes than Democrats opposing. Here are the rest of the votes in play:

Republican Undecided (6)
Collins, Snowe, Voinovich, Grassley, McCain, Scott Brown (lean Yes)

Democratic Leaning No (2)
Klobuchar, Ben Nelson

Democratic Undecided (6)
Lieberman, Gillibrand, Schumer, Carper, Byrd, Bayh (lean Yes)

It’ll be interesting to see if the White House bothers to whip this. They claim to support Merkley-Levin, and they’ve been somewhat active in the amendment debate.

• Blanche Lincoln really didn’t want this story out there before her primary tomorrow:

Democratic Senators Chris Dodd and Blanche Lincoln said there was room to negotiate on a proposal that would force banks to spin off their swaps businesses, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.

Lincoln, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said she defended the policy, but was open to better ideas and suggestions.

Clearly, this is going to get cut. Only if Lincoln gets forced into a runoff, and Bill Halter makes this a signature issue, will the trading desk spin-off get saved. The AFL-CIO is already sending this story around, so at least they’ll make it a major issue.

• Finally, in a look ahead to the state of play after cloture is invoked and the bill passes, Barney Frank has a proposal:

As the public debate has carried on, the bill has been made stronger. Reform advocates are hoping for similar transparency during conference committee negotiations, which are typically held behind closed doors, where killing key provisions is easier.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) is pushing to hold such negotiations in front of C-SPAN cameras.

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