Byron Dorgan, the indefatigable financial reformer, just pulled off one hell of a move on the floor of the Senate. He has been frustrated by being unable to get a vote on his amendment to ban naked credit default swaps, derivatives where the buyer and seller have no physical stake (essentially gambling bets on someone else’s commodity). He threatened to filibuster the bill if he didn’t get a vote. He threatened, after unanimous consent to bring up his vote was blocked, to object to everything happening on the floor unless he got a vote. And after beginning to do so, he found a way to act.

Dorgan filed a “second-degree amendment,” attaching his naked credit default swaps ban to an amendment which already received unanimous consent to move forward, a McCaskill/Grassley amendment on Inspectors General. Basically, he attached his amendment, which he couldn’t get to the floor by normal means, to something already on the floor. And amazingly, nobody objected. I think Dorgan waited for a moment when the Republicans were out of the room or something. He successfully pulled off the Parliamentary trick to get his amendment to the floor.

It doesn’t totally mean it’ll get a vote. But if it doesn’t, it brings down Grassley and McCaskill’s amendment with it, and that was a non-controversial piece sure to get an almost unanimous vote.

More in a bit on the Merkley-Levin deliberations.

UPDATE: They’re now about to vote on the Dorgan amendment through a process of tabling his second-degree amendment. Chris Dodd is warning against the total ban of naked CDS, because of the lack of protection for commercial end-users. He said he would have offered a side-by-side amendment, but because of the Parliamentary maneuvering, “this was the only choice given,” and so he advises to table the amendment. Voting will happen in a moment.

UPDATE II: So voting is on to table the Dorgan amendment. I’m not going out on a limb saying it’s going to get tabled. So naked CDS will continue, the Volcker rule is hanging by a thread because Republicans won’t allow a vote, the derivatives provision is about to get tanked, and everyone’s still thinking “hey, the Senate’s making this bill better!” Well, they’re not. Not in any serious way. It’s a little better than the House – less bad is perhaps the proper elocution – in some respects, but not in all. There’s still a conference committee to go, too.

UPDATE III: The motion to table Dorgan’s amendment passed by a count of 56-38.

David Dayen

David Dayen