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Merkley Offers Second-Degree Amendment To Force Vote On Merkley-Levin

Here’s the showdown. Jeff Merkley just offered a second-degree amendment to force a vote of the Merkley-Levin bill to the floor. More in a moment…

…The story so far, Merkley and Levin were blocked last night from offering their amendment. Byron Dorgan used this trick of a second-degree amendment last night to force a vote on his amendment on banning naked credit default swaps. Ultimately, that got tabled. But Merkley-Levin has much more support in the chamber. I believe that Merkley filed this as a second-degree amendment to the Manager’s amendment, meaning that they cannot avoid a vote here, since the manager’s amendment includes the piece gutting the derivatives bill. They can try to table the second-degree amendment, as they did with Dorgan, and that will be an interesting vote, to say the least.

More in a bit…

…OK, so this is a second-degree amendment to the Brownback amendment on auto dealers. That was the only amendment definitively set as germane for a post-cloture vote. So if this succeeds, Merkley-Levin could get a vote even after cloture is invoked, if it’s invoked. Susan Collins has come out and said she’ll vote for cloture.

This means Merkley-Levin is not attached to the derivatives regulation-gutting Manager’s amendment, which should be filibustered.

UPDATE: Here’s the statement from Merkley’s office:

Refusing to give up their effort to ban high-risk trading in the banks that families and small businesses depend upon and to end conflicts of interest on Wall Street, Senator Merkley and Senator Levin this morning offered the Merkley-Levin amendment implementing the Volcker rule as a second degree amendment that alters an amendment from Senator Brownback. While both Senators Merkley and Levin would have preferred to have a full debate and vote on their amendment last night, Wall Street was afraid of that option and Republican leadership blocked the Merkley-Levin amendment from coming up for a vote on its own.

This move stops Republican attempts to hide from the vote. The Merkley-Levin amendment must now be voted on before the entire Wall Street reform bill receives a final vote. For the Merkley-Levin amendment to ultimately be included in the final Wall Street reform bill, the Merkley-Levin amendment must pass and then the Brownback amendment to which it is attached must pass.

The Merkley-Levin amendment will ban high-risk trading inside our lending and depository institutions to help prevent a future financial crisis and prevent bank capital from being diverted away from loans into trading. The amendment will also end conflicts of interest in cases such as Goldman Sachs and will send a strong message to Wall Street that betting against the best interests of their clients will no longer be allowed.

It’s an ugly compromise, of course. To get a ban on high-risk trading, you have to exempt car dealers from consumer protection. To get auto dealers subject to consumer protection, you have to keep the casinos going on Wall Street.

…I want to be clear that Merkley and Levin had no other choice to get a fair hearing for their amendment but to attach it to the Brownback car dealer amendment. That’s the only one that was ruled germane post-cloture. So they’ve assured themselves of a vote on it, and that matters. Merkley’s office “is not asking anyone to support the Brownback amendment. But if Brownback’s amendment does pass, so does Merkley/Levin,” they explain in a statement to FDL News.

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David Dayen

David Dayen