Monday, June 28, 2010

The Plot Thickens

Senator Robert Byrd (D WV) died this morning. That would be noteworthy if only because he was the longest serving member of the Senate and fourth in the line of succession behind Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to become President of the United States in a crisis situation. But for those of us following HR 4173--The Restoring American Financial Stability Act--it is significant for another reason. The bill finished conference committee last week and was supposed to go back to the House and Senate for final passage. However, Byrd's death appears to have left proponents one vote short of the 60 needed for passage.

Scott Brown, (R-MA) who famously took Senator Kennedy's seat after promising to block the health care bill (which, ironically, he did not get an opportunity to do after all) voted for the financial reform bill. However, he now says he is concerned that the fees and taxes added to the financial reform bill in conference will be passed on to consumers (you think?) and because of that he is now having second thoughts.

Russ Feingold (D WI) is also threatening to vote against the financial reform bill because he does not like the conference language. That leaves Senate majority leader Harry Reid racing around looking for one more vote.

Much has been made of the necessity of passing this bill before the July 4 recess. But unless Senate leaders woo back one dissenter--which is likely--that probably won't happen because they will have to wait for Byrd's replacement to be confirmed by the Senate so that he or she can vote on the bill.

Whomever the replacement is, that Senator will not go up for reelection until 2012, so voters will have a long time to evaluate the results of his or her first major vote--the vote to radically redefine lending and financial oversight in the United States.

In the meantime, the thought that HR 4173 might not pass at all and might die at the eleventh hour gives my heart a warm happy feeling. Honestly, that is not very realistic either--no one seriously expects that the reform bill will be killed at this late date. But we can always dream!

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