The Financial Reform Stalemate Ends--Sort Of

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After blocking debate on Wall Street reforms for three consecutive days, Senate Republicans will give have given up their opposition.

[UPDATE: The Senate will move forward with debate on financial reform. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asked for unanimous consent to bring the financial reform bill to the floor; there was no objection.]

Financial reform could clear cleared a procedural hurdle Wednesday evening, with Sen. Chris Dodd's bill advancing to the Senate floor for debate and amendments. Republicans had voted en masse, for three straight days, not to allow Dodd's bill to advance.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled Wednesday afternoon that, after an agreement was reached with Democrats on how the reform bill deals with bailouts, the GOP will no longer unify to oppose moving Dodd's bill forward--though bipartisan negotiations have ended in an impasse.


"Now that those bipartisan negotiations have ended, it is my hope that the majority's avowed interest in improving this legislation on the Senate floor is genuine and the partisan gamesmanship is over," McConnell said Wednesday afternoon, in a statement released by his press office.

Translation: Republicans will make up their own minds whether to vote "yes" or "no," without a unified mission to block Dodd's bill.

Bipartisan negotiations between Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R) have ended, Shelby and Dodd announced, after the two reached an agreement on bailouts. Shelby will not support the bill and, despite winning a concession an agreement, Shelby said that he and Dodd had reached an impasse, and that more negotiation would be pointless.

[UPDATE: Dodd's office says no deal has been reached, rather that Dodd simply agreed to work with Shelby.]

What's next: Senate Democrats are expected to call a vote Wednesday night, at which point they'll most likely get the 60 voted needed to open debate on Dodd's bill. After that, the Senate will debate financial reform.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will allow amendments to be offered on the Senate floor, according to spokesman Jim Manley. So both Republicans and some Democrats will likely offer their own language to be added, until Democrats are able to call a cloture vote to end debate--at which point they'll need another 60 votes. Under Senate rules, which mandate a certain amount of time for debate, financial reform can't advance to an up-or-down vote until late Thursday night at the earliest, depending on when Wednesday's procedural vote is held.

There is still no bipartisan agreement on the bill, however--so the stalemate, technically, is not over. But Wall Street reforms will move forward, and, with Shelby winning a concession on bailouts--a main point of contention for Republicans, as they have criticized Dodd's bill publicly--things are looking better for Democrats' plans to change how the U.S. financial system is regulated.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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