- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 25, 2010

Senate Republican leaders on Sunday said their ranks are unified and determined to shoot down a key test vote Monday on legislation to overhaul Wall Street regulation, posing a potentially embarrassing scenario for Democrats eager to advance a key item of President Obama’s agenda.

“It’s my expectation that we will not go forward with this partisan bill tomorrow,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, on “Fox News Sunday.” “It’s not ready yet.”

Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican, who is the top GOP member on the Senate banking committee, also predicated that no Republican will support the Democratic bill as it’s written now.

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“Will we get a bill by tomorrow? I doubt it,” Mr. Shelby said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Even Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, who is the bill’s main architect, appeared less than certain that the necessary 60 votes in the 100-member Senate could be secured to advance the bill.

“We’re not there yet, but I hope that we can get the votes tomorrow,” Mr. Dodd said Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — in a game of political chicken in which he is counting on the Republicans to blink first — last week called for the test vote in the hope of pressuring moderate Republicans to vote yes.

With only 59 members of the Democratic caucus, Mr. Reid, Nevada Democrat, would need at least one Republican to cross party lines — as well as total support within his ranks — for his gamble to pay off.

A Democratic defeat Monday doesn’t mean the bill is dead, but a successful Republican block would give the party improved footing to demand changes to the bill.

Republicans used a similar stall tactic this year when they unsuccessfully tried to block the Democrats health care overhaul.

But unlike the highly bitter and partisan-charged health care debate, senators from both parties on Sunday tempered their rhetoric, saying they agreed that something must be done to fix problems on Wall Street in order to avoid another financial crisis.

“It’s not ready yet,” Mr. McConnell said. “This is not a situation where anybody I know in the Senate wants no bill to pass, but it is important to pass a good bill.”

Mr. Shelby said that Republicans and Democrats are “closer than we’ve ever been” on agreeing to legislation.

“I think we will get a bill if the Democrats want a bill and will give us some things that are substantive in nature,” he said.

A key sticking point is a proposed taxpayer-supported fund that allow the government to step in and dismantle failing firms that threaten the economy. Republicans say this proposal amounts to a permanent bailout authority for the government.

“It’s better not to pre-fund … that creates an expectation that it will be used,” Mr. McConnell said.

Even if all 41 Senate Republicans vote to block the measure, Democrats hope the action would backfire on the minority party, as voters then may view Republicans as obstructionists who aren’t serious about fixing problems within the financial services sector.

The bill, which calls for the biggest regulatory overhaul of Wall Street since the New Deal of the 1930s, includes provisions for greater consumer protections and tighter government control of the financial industries.

The measure calls for a Financial Services Oversight Council to monitor the financial system. The agency would identify and regulate firms that are so large and interconnected that their collapse would put the entire financial system at risk — a scenario that prompted Congress in 2008 to approve the publicly unpopular $700 billion Wall Street bailout.

While the White House and congressional Democrats are pushing hard for the financial reforms — a key Obama campaign pledge — polling suggests a majority of Americans have little confidence that policymakers know what they’re doing when it comes to dealing with Wall Street.

A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey released Thursday shows that 64 percent of respondents say they are not confident that policymakers know what they’re doing. Only 32 percent say they are at least somewhat confident that policymakers will address the nation’s Wall Street concerns adequately. That includes 9 percent who are very confident.

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