With Three GOP Votes, Democrats Near Wall Street Reform Passage

Senate Democrats moved one step closer to passing a sweeping overhaul of Wall Street regulations -- and handing President Barack Obama an election-year victory -- after securing the support of three Republicans.

In a statement issued late Monday, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said she would join Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), who had announced his support earlier in the day, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who was already on record backing the Wall Street reform bill. The measure would create new consumer protections and impose limits on Wall Street activity.

"I intend to support passage of the legislation when it's brought before the Senate for consideration," Snowe said in a statement. "While not perfect, the legislation takes necessary steps to implement meaningful regulatory reforms, create strong consumer protections, and restore confidence in the American financial system."

Three Republicans Break With Their Party

With 57 solid Democratic votes -- conservative Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) was wavering Monday night -- the three Republicans appear to have pushed Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) past the 60-vote threshold he needs to send the measure to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote. Reid said he plans to finish work on the bill this week but didn't give a date for the final vote.

Both Snowe and Collins are moderates who have increasingly found themselves at odds with their Republican colleagues, many of whom have edged to the right in the last year thanks to pressure from conservative activists. For his part, Brown has displayed an independent streak since winning a special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.).

"While it isn't perfect, I expect to support the bill when it comes up for a vote," Brown said in a statement. "It includes safeguards to help prevent another financial meltdown, ensures that consumers are protected, and it is paid for without new taxes."

Bank Tax Was Sticking Point

After originally supporting the bill, Brown balked after Democrats inserted a $19 billion tax on big Wall Street banks and hedge funds. "My fear is that these costs would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher bank, ATM and credit card fees, and put a strain on lending at the worst possible time for our economy," Brown said.

In order to gain his vote, Democrats reconvened the conference committee -- a highly unusual move -- and scrapped the tax.

Sen. Reid, the majority leader, praised the three Republicans and said in a statement that he would move swiftly toward a vote. "We will finish our work on this bill this week to ensure that these critical protections and accountability for Wall Street are in place as soon as possible," Reid said.
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