Senate Delays Vote|on Financial Reform

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate voted 57 to 42 Wednesday to delay a final decision on the financial reform package, providing lawmakers more time to consider additional amendments to the bill.

     “Ending debate on the bill is finishing before the job is done,” said Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., one of two Democrats to vote against moving the bill forward.
     Feingold and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., voted with 39 Republicans against ending debate on the bill, denying leading Senate Democrats the 60 votes needed to close on the bill and forcing the Senate to spend more time on proposed amendments.
          Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, voted with Democrats to advance the bill. Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Penn., did not vote.
     Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., held the cloture vote — which would end debate on amendments to the bill — Wednesday afternoon. Reid wanted to push a vote on the measure before the Senate takes on emergency war spending and other measures next week.
     During voting, Reid changed his vote to ‘Nay’ so he could be part of the prevailing side and call for another vote.
     Up for debate is an amendment sponsored by Cantwell and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to restore the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which placed stricter rules on banks following the Great Depression. The bill was repealed in 1999 by a Republican majority vote.
     In a statement Wednesday, Feingold called for separation between commercial and investment banking interests. “We need to eliminate the risk posed to our economy by ‘too big to fail’ financial firms and to reinstate the protective firewalls between Main Street banks and Wall Street firms,” Feingold said. “Unfortunately, these key reforms are not included in the bill.”
     Democratic supporters of the bill immediately pounced on Senate Republicans for the failed vote.
     “Thirty-nine of 41 republican senators voted to keep the status quo on Wall Street,” said majority whip Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., after voting. “They voted to continue business as usual. They don’t want this bill.” He accused the majority of Republican senators of choosing to “keep the banks happy.”
     Republicans shot back. “I didn’t vote for cloture because I don’t think it’s right to leave Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac out of the equation,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. The two government-sponsored mortgage companies have not been named in the legislation. “They started this,” Isakson said. “You cannot address the concerns that happened if you do not address the root causes.” Isakson declined Durbin’s invitation to stay on the Senate floor “in the interest of a real debate.
     “I never said that we are dealing with every financial problem in the country,” Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said in response to concerns about the large mortgage issuers. “That’s an impossible prospect.” Dodd, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, said the committee should put Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reform first on its priority list after he steps down at the end of the term.
          He said Fannie and Freddie reform, “while not in this bill, ought not to be justification in walking away.” Dodd is the main author of the financial reform legislation.

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