- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 29, 2010

Senate Republican leaders said Wednesday they will end their stall tactics and allow a full floor debate on bill that calls for massive regulatory overhaul of the financial services sector.

Republicans three times this week voted against ending a filibuster to advance the bill toward a final vote, saying that they were trying to buy time to let negotiations with Democrats produce a better bill.

But by Wednesday afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said it was apparent that the negotiations were going nowhere and that he was ready to debate and vote on the bill.

“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,” Mr. McConnell said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, praised the Republicans’ gesture.

“It’s time to move this debate from the sidelines to the playing field,” he said.

President Obama, who has endorsed the Senate bill, said he “very pleased” about the Republicans’ decision to allow the bill to move forward.

“I want to work with anyone, Republican or Democrat, who wants to pursue these reforms in good faith,” the president said during a visit to Quincy, Ill. “There can be some legitimate differences on certain issues, but the bottom line is consumers have to be protected.”

The bill’s outcome is still in doubt, as debate likely will continue for weeks.

A key sticking point has been a proposed $50 billion taxpayer-supported fund that would allow the government to dismantle failing firms that threaten the economy. Republicans say this proposal amounts to a permanent bailout authority for the government, a characterization Democrats reject.

The legislation, which calls for the most sweeping regulatory overhaul of Wall Street since the Great Depression, includes provisions for greater consumer protections and tighter government control of the financial industries and the largely unregulated market in derivatives.

The measure calls for a new oversight council, working separately from the Securities and Exchange Commission, to monitor the financial system. The agency would identify and regulate firms so large and interconnected that their collapse would put the entire financial system at risk - a scenario that prompted Congress in 2008 to hurry to approve an unpopular $700 billion Wall Street bailout.

The House has passed its version.

Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, said the panel’s chairman, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, has assured him that a number of Republican concerns will be addressed.

“I appreciate Chairman Dodd’s assurance that my concerns relating to ending bailouts will be included in his bill. I take him at his word,” Mr. Shelby said.

Mr. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, characterized his negotiations with Mr. Shelby as “productive” but said he “cannot agree to his desire to weaken consumer protections given the enormous abuses we have seen.”

Republican leaders faced pressure in their own ranks from members who said the filibuster of the measure - upheld almost entirely with GOP votes - could not be sustained indefinitely, in light of public polls supporting action in Congress to limit Wall Street abuses.

“I would not want to be a public official who was seen in any way of standing in the way of getting this reform done,” said Sen. Bob Casey, Pennsylvania Democrat. “It’s a very, very dangerous place to be.”

Senate Democratic leaders earlier Wednesday announced that they were prepared to keep the chamber open all night and portray Republicans as being cozy to Wall Street, an action they hoped would pressure Republicans to back down.

The all-nighter become a moot point, however, when Republicans agreed to end their filibuster.

“It took Joshua seven trips around Jericho leading the Israelites before those walls came down, and it only took Harry Reid three trips around Republican obstruction and three votes before these walls have now come down,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Democrat.