Senate Vote to End Debate on Financial Reform Fails

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The financial reform debate will go on. A motion to limit debate and consider the Senate's regulation bill as is failed this afternoon, by a vote of 57 to 42. It needed 60 votes to pass. What went wrong? Two Democrats broke with their party.

In fact, two Republicans voted for the motion -- the Senators from Maine Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. All other republicans voted against it. But with 59 seats, Democrats only actually needed one Republican to defect, so those two should have been plenty. That means Democrats have their own party to blame for preventing the bill from moving forward.

Two Democrats were responsible for the bill failing: Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA) and Sen. Russ Feingold (WI). Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also voted against the motion, but did so for the procedural purpose of being able to call it back up later. Arlen Specter (D-PA) did not vote.

So why did Cantwell vote 'no'? She had actually already threatened to do so if her amendment was not heard. It wasn't. Her proposal would reinstate Glass-Steagall, which forbid retail banks from certain investment banking activities. She made good on her promise. After the vote, she began speaking in favor of her amendment on the Senate floor.

Feingold released the following statement regarding his no-vote:

After thirty years of giving in to the wishes of Wall Street lobbyists, Congress needs to finally enact tough reforms to prevent Wall Street from driving our economy into the ditch again. 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. Unfortunately, these key reforms are not included in the bill. The test for this legislation is a simple one - whether it will prevent another financial crisis. As the bill stands, it fails that test. Ending debate on the bill is finishing before the job is done.

That is sufficiently vague, but it sounds like he essentially didn't think that the Senate's work was done, as there were still issues that needed to be considered with further amendments.

As mentioned, Reid reserved the right to call the cloture vote again. Another vote will almost certainly be held before the Memorial Day recess, though it's unclear precisely when. You can probably expect Democratic leadership will do whatever it can to satisfy Cantwell and Feingold, however, since those are the only votes they need get the bill through. And that also probably sheds some light on when the vote will take place -- once those two Senators are on board. Given the Republicans from Maine voting for cloture, the bill will almost certainly pass in the days to come.

Update: Just heard from Reid's office. They hope to hold another vote to end debate on Thursday.

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Daniel Indiviglio was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 through 2011. He is now the Washington, D.C.-based columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He is also a 2011 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow through the Phillips Foundation. More

Indiviglio has also written for Forbes. Prior to becoming a journalist, he spent several years working as an investment banker and a consultant.
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