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Senate Bipartisan Vote to Filibuster Finance Bill

UPDATED 5:52 pm

The finance bill filibuster is on.  Senate Democrats fell three votes short of the 60 votes necessary to move a partisan finance bill forward failing by a vote of 57-41.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) crossed the aisle to vote against the bill moving forward.  Could have something to do with this Wall Street Journal report today: 

Senate Democrats agreed Monday to kill a provision from their derivatives bill pushed by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., a change one analyst predicted could force the Nebraska company to set aside up to $8 billion.

The Senate Agriculture Committee inserted language into its derivatives bill last week at the request of Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) that would have exempted any existing derivatives contracts from new collateral requirements—the money set aside to cover potential losses.

Berkshire has $63 billion in derivatives contracts, and Mr. Buffett has boasted he holds very little collateral against these products.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also switched his vote to “no” to allow him under Senate rules to bring the bill up again for a cloture vote as early as Tuesday.

Republican Sens. Bob Bennett (Utah) and Kit Bond (Mo.) were not present for the vote.  The standard is 60 votes for cloture and their absence did not threaten the outcome.

ORIGINAL REPORT:

Senate Republicans to Offer Fannie & Freddie Reforms in Alternative Finance Bill

Confident of garnering political advantage by demonizing Wall Street, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has set up a cloture vote showdown today at 5:00 pm on the Democrats’ partisan bill.

Authored by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), the bill would institutionalize taxpayer bailouts for companies the government deems “too big to fail.” 

Dems plan to depict a Republican vote in favor of a filibuster as an endorsement of high crimes and evil capitalism.

Should Democrats choose to push ahead on cloture for their partisan bill, Senate Republicans will fight back with an alternative Senate finance bill that reforms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — the two mortgage giants at ground zero of the financial meltdown.

A highly-placed GOP aide has confirmed to HUMAN EVENTS that the alternative bill has long been in the works and will include vital Fannie and Freddie reforms.

“Nothing has been finalized yet and no decision has been made on when we’d unveil,” the source said. “By all accounts, Dodd and Shelby are closer than they’ve ever been to hammering out a bipartisan agreement and it’s an incredibly cynical move for Reid to hold a vote that he knows will fail.”

“Reid’s move seems to confirm that Democrats aren’t as serious about solving the problem as they are about taking political votes,”  the source added.

The Dodd bill up for cloture vote today ignores Fannie and Freddie reform completely, giving Republicans a big wedge in the issue.  The two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) have directly cost taxpayers over $125 billion, placing hundreds of billions more tax dollars at risk.

Fannie and Freddie pose a political minefield for Democrats who have systematically blocked scrutiny of lower lending standards at the heart of the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

Who can forget this memorable series of video clips from hearings in 2004?

“Together [Fannie and Freddie] represent the two largest, most influence-exerting, regulation-avoiding, bailed-out institutions in America,” Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), top Republican on the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, said in a letter Friday to Senate Republicans. 

“The American people are tired of paying for the failures of others, and real regulatory reform means that there should be no more government get out of jail free cards for bad corporate financial bets.”

It appears Senate Republicans concur with Hensarling’s assessment and will address the actual causes of the financial meltdown head on.

Democrats say they’ll address Fannie and Freddie reforms next time around.  Whatever that means.

“The Democrats want us to trust them on this one,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (D-Ky.) in a speech from the Senate floor today.  "With all respect, Americans aren’t in a trusting mood at this point."

DEVELOPING…

Written By

Connie Hair writes a weekly column for HUMAN EVENTS. She is a former speechwriter for Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.).

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