An interesting twist to the FinReg conference committee – it’s the Republicans calling for transparency. A proposal originally floated by Barney Frank has been embraced by key members of the GOP:

Several weeks ago, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank dared Senate Republicans to oppose Wall Street reform, and warned that, after the Senate passed its legislation, any further efforts to weaken the final product would have to be public: a formal conference committee to iron out the differences between the House and Senate bills, even a C-SPAN camera so the whole world could see where each party stood.

Well, last night, the Senate passed its bill, and on Monday the Senate will take formal steps to begin the conference committee process. And in conversation, key Republicans and Democrats last night say they think inviting the cameras along would be just fine.

“That’d be great,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), a Republican conferee told me. “Sure.”

“Televised? Oh, I’m not against that being televised,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL)–the top Republican financial reform negotiator. “We televised the Senate, we televised the House.”

In fact, the one senator who seemed unenthusiastic about it was a Democrat–Banking Committee chairman Chris Dodd. “I have no opposition to it,” Dodd said. “We’ll see how it all works out.”

Now House Minority Leader John Boehner has asked Nancy Pelosi for an open conference:

“This subject is too important and affects too much of our economy to be written in its final stages by a select few Democrats and lobbyists behind closed doors,” Boehner wrote to Pelosi in a letter. “And consistent with the new House initiative of live streaming video of House floor proceedings, we believe the conference debate should include live webcasting so even more Americans can engage in the debate over this crucial legislation’s final form.”

This is probably just posturing against “backroom deals,” trying to double down on a stance that got them some traction in the health care debate. They also may assume that Democrats won’t agree to this, so it’s all the better to be able to run to the media later and denounce the secret negotiations.

But as I said, this proposal started with Barney Frank. And progressives should probably want a watchful eye over these proceedings, although I’m doubtful that the public conference would end up being where the real deals got done anyway, but more of a kabuki play. It’s pretty clear that some of the biggest proposals which could at least cut into the bottom line of the big banks and set us on the path of reform (if only a few baby steps) are vociferously opposed by the big banks, and so a nominally transparent process probably helps keep them at bay.

No word from Pelosi or Reid yet on the status of the conference committee.

UPDATE: Pelosi responds:

“Democratic leaders have long been committed to an open conference that will result in strong Wall Street reform, and we hope that Republicans, who have opposed reform from the start, will work with us to protect America’s middle class and stand up to Big Bank and corporate special interests.”

We could have an open conference, folks.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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