There are votes expected today on amendments to the Wall Street reform bill, but with at least two members of the Democratic caucus – Blanche Lincoln and Arlen Specter – wrapped up in primaries, the chances of getting involved in any controversial amendments are slight. But if Harry Reid wants a cloture vote tomorrow, he’ll probably have to put at least some of them up for a vote today, because otherwise, Senate Democrats won’t vote to end debate:

Reid will need to round up support from at least 60 senators Wednesday to break a filibuster, a hurdle that the Senate leadership expects to reach despite threats from some rank-and-file members to withhold support until certain amendments receive votes […]

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) has said he will filibuster the bill unless the Senate votes on his amendment banning a speculative financial instrument known as a “naked” credit default swap. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has done the same, saying she needs a vote on her amendment separating commercial and investment banking operations.

I don’t buy Michael Grunwald’s argument that Republicans hold leverage over the bill. You can see during the amendment part of the debate that Chuck Grassley and Richard Lugar, at least, are perfectly ready to vote for a final product, and Snowe, Collins, Brown and Voinovich are close behind. Democrats actually have the ability to hold up the process more than Republicans, which is why they want their votes first.

But regardless of the timing of the vote, and I think it could easily go into next week, the key piece of legislation to watch is the manager’s amendment. This consists of the changes worked out, in this case through a bipartisan agreement, and tucked into the bill for a final vote at the last minute. The manager’s amendment is sure to have all sorts of ghoulish bits in it, and only Chris Dodd and Richard Shelby know what’s in store right now.

Another major unknown at this point is what Dodd and Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Banking Committee, will agree to place in the manager’s amendment. The details have been closely held, but the amendment is likely to include both broadly supported provisions and specific fixes to a controversial section regulating derivatives authored by Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.).

Shelby has received a proposal from Dodd on the manager’s amendment, but according to a GOP aide, his staff has not finished combing through the extensive amount of material provided by the Democratic staff. Reid’s comments on the floor directly targeting the two top Banking Committee negotiators served as a gentle reminder that getting their work done is a key factor in garnering the 60 votes necessary to overcome a potential filibuster.

“I hope the two managers of this bill, Chairman Dodd and ranking member Shelby, can continue to work on this bill,” Reid said.

They’re outright saying that Lincoln’s derivatives bill, probably the swaps trading desks provision, is targeted for elimination. This is so depressingly cynical; the day of her primary election, articles like this come out to tell everyone that the one thing she had been using to deflect her image as a corporate suck-up will never see its way into law.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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