Reid Dealt Setback on Wall St. Bill

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) effort to end the floor debate on financial reform and move to a full vote on the bill just failed. This doesn’t threaten the bill’s ultimate passage. That’s because the key senators who voted against cloture—Democrats Russ Feingold and Maria Cantwell, both avid reform supporters—did so because they want tougher amendments to still be considered. They voted against cloture to get a vote on those amendments, and there’s no doubt they’ll ultimately back the bill.

Here’s Ezra Klein’s take on the failed cloture vote:

[Reid] lost because he lost Democrats. Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins actually voted for cloture. Their votes were canceled out by Democrats like Maria Cantwell and Russ Feingold, who aren’t ready to give up on their amendments.

Before getting to what that means, it’s worth saying why Reid wants to move to a final vote. The answer is floor time. Next week, the Senate is scheduled to take up the next war supplemental, which will have funding both for Iraq and Afghanistan and also for various disaster-relief efforts, and it will take up a bill to extend economic supports for the jobless. If the Senate doesn’t finish financial regulation this week, it probably can’t do those bills next week because the GOP’s routine filibusters mean that each vote will require days of floor time. And the plan, as of now, is for the Senate to adjourn come Memorial Day. Of course, the Senate could just choose to work past memorial Day, which would solve the problem of floor time.

As for what happens now, debate on financial regulation will continue. More amendments will be considered, at least if Democrats and Republicans can come to an agreement on whether to consider them. And another cloture vote will have to be called. That might be bad for the Senate schedule, but it’s probably good for the bill. This is the rare process in which the amendments are making the legislation substantially better. If the Senate has to work over Memorial Day to accommodate that process, so be it.

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