Would you rather have a fully debated financial reform bill pass by mid-July or a rushed version done by July 4th? Democratic leaders apparently prefer the latter. Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd said today that the conference committee must finish its business by this Thursday so that the legislation can be completed by Independence Day. What's so bad about drawing out the process for a few extra weeks to get a better bill?
The Wall Street Journal provides what they said:
"If we are not able to finish up by Thursday, then this bill will not be able to pass until the middle of July," Mr. Frank said in his opening statements to the conference committee Tuesday.
"It's paramount we get this done by Thursday," Mr. Dodd said.
It also notes that part of the issue is the G-20 meeting. Dodd and Frank want to provide the President with a concrete narrative of what new regulations will be put in place. That way, he can brag to the other big 19 about all the great reforms the U.S. has readied.
While their wish to get legislation finished quickly is admirable, doing so at the cost of good amendments and changes is not. Some could be lost if the process is rushed. For example, today, Republicans hoped to offer several amendments that would affect Fannie and Freddie. Frank refused to hear those amendments, as he said that they were not germane to the day's House offer. Although he said that they might be able to get to these amendments on Thursday, he didn't sound very certain that he would humor them then either. The majority party gets to essentially set the rules for how the conference committee will work, and those rules are relatively fluid. If Frank doesn't want an amendment heard, he has considerable power to block it.
Of course, Frank probably thinks he's just being practical. He knows as well as anyone that Democrats probably won't allow any changes to Fannie and Freddie to make it into the bill. As a result, it's not surprising that he wishes to just forgo the formality of debating amendments that are likely to fail. But politics has never been known for its speed. Legitimate debates should take place.
GSE reform is just one example of potentially positive changes that the committee should be considering that might be pushed aside due to self-imposed time constraints. The result might be slopping slapping together a few thousands pages of complicated financial legislation in just two weeks. The economy obviously won't be any worse off if a regulation bill passes in mid-July instead of early-July. But if a better bill came from the delay, it could actually benefit.