Financial reform regulation held up by its own creators


Last night’s vote by the Senate to end the debate on S. 3217, Restoring American Financial Stability, failed 57-42 with two majority party senators voting no; we’ll be following the proceedings as events warrant on Sunlight Live.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev, planned to end the debate yesterday, preventing any more amendments from being added to the bill, and moving forward with final debate and a vote on the bill itself. Reid will instead have to attempt cloture once again–most likely later today.

Among the Democrats who dissented were Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., who both claimed the bill isn’t yet tough enough.

Cantwell wanted to be sure that certain loopholes that Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s amendment on  derivatives left open would be closed. Lincoln’s amendment was accepted earlier this month.  Cantwell said she wants to,  “[ensure] transparency and oversight of the currently unregulated derivatives market.” 

After the failed vote last night on the Senate floor, Cantwell said more specifically that while Lincoln’s provision will require all credit swaps to go through a clearinghouse, there are no penalties set up if traders don’t comply.

The reasons behind Feingold’s no vote was less defined than Cantwell’s. The Wisconsin Democrat said the bill won’t succeed in preventing another financial crisis like the one in 2008. He adds that the financial reform legislation hasn’t addressed the “too big to fail” problem that the country faced with the collapse of financial firms like AIG.

“The test for this legislation is a simple one – whether it will prevent another financial crisis.  As the bill stands, it fails that test,” Feingold said in a statement.

However, the bill does include provisions that limit the amount of credit exposure large institutions can have at one time, which can limit a bank’s ability to be too big to fail. Additionally, the derivatives provisions in the bill are supposed to inhibit banks from taking on too much risk at once by making the trades transparent. 

Yesterday’s attempt at cloture was also missing a vote from the defeated incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa, who lost his primary race in Pennsylvania on Tuesday. Specter didn’t make it to Washington yesterday, but word is he’s back in town today and a vote from him will likely bring the Senate closer to a final decision on the bill.