Reid Hopes to Wrap Up Bank Reform Debate Thursday

U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said he hopes to hold another vote on Thursday on wrapping up debate on a Wall Street reform bill.


"We hope to be able to have another vote tomorrow," Reid told reporters immediately after Democrats failed to muster enough votes Wednesday to pass a "cloture" vote on the biggest overhaul of financial regulation since the 1930s.

Fellow Democrat Christopher Dodd, manager and chief author of the bill, said he was confident there would be sufficient votes on the next attempt to limit debate and move the Senate toward a decision on final passage of the measure.

Earlier Wednesday, Senate Democrats suffered a procedural defeat in trying to move toward a final vote, failing to overcoming Republican opposition.

The Senate rejected a cloture vote—57-42—denying Democrats a chance to limit further debate to 30 hours before holding a final vote on whether to approve the complex legislation.

The Democrats needed 60 votes to avoid the possibility of a filibuster. They control 58 seats and can usually count on the support of independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Democrats Maria Cantwell of Washington and Russell Feingold of Wisconsin both voted no, which might help explain why the vote was postponed from its original time of 2 p.m. to allow for one more caucus meeting.

Maine's two Republican senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, voted in favor of cloture.

The no vote today came amid simmering differences over a number of measures, which Reid (D-Nev.) acknowledged had still yet to be resolved.

Reid immediately filed a motion to reconsider the vote, the Senate version of a do-over.

In additiion, some members have been frustrated by the fact that only a small percentage of 300 amendments have been debated and voted on.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) had threatened to vote against cloture, unless the Senate leadership agreed to hold a vote on a amendment he has co-sponsored with Democrat Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

Both, however, voted yes, having managed to use Senate rules to force a vote after the cloture vote Wednesday. Under such a scenario, if the amendement got a strong enough vote, it could make its way into a revised version of the bill at a later date when the Senate and House meld the two versions on which they voted.

Levin and Merkley, who are considered two of the progressive members of the party, are pushing an amendment that would make the Volcker rule law. The chief objectives are to restrict the proprietary trading activities of Wall Street firms and bar them from "engaging in high-risk speculation'" through derivatives and other products.

The restrictions would affect Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs , now under investigation for some of its trading activities, as well other big financial firms.

President Obama is a strong supporter of the measure.

The senators have tweaked the amendment, perhaps to make it more appealing to the GOP, by excluding firms not engaged in traditional banking. Another change would allow banks to continue to sell, or securitize, loans they make, preserving a large market.

More broadly, the amendment complements new regulation of over-the counter derivatives, meant to reduce leverage and risk.

A somewhat unpopular measure—crafted by Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), chair of the Agriculture Committee—that would force banks to create special subsidiaries for their swaps operations may be revised and watered down.

A new compromise proposal spearheaded by Dodd would call for a two-year study to see if the restriction—which is not in the House version of the bill—is merited.

Another key component—creating an over-the-counter trading and settlement system—has fairly wide support, but some would like a strong end-user exemption for companies that use derivatives as an operational hedge.

Consuming Subject

The other big battleground is the creation of a powerfulregulator to protect consumers from potential abuse by financial services companies, especially in the area of mortgages.

As proposed by Dodd, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would be an independent agency housed at the Federal Reserve with a presidentially appointed director, rule-making, examination and enforcement powers.

Having failed to water down its core authority, opponents have been trying to weaken or remove a provision allowing states to interpret and, if desired, toughen the rules, which would make firms subject to a potential blizzard of regulations.

An amendment by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) specifically prohibiting states from enforcing the consumer laws and reserving that authority to federal regulators was approved Tuesday, which might help pave the way for approval.

Another amendment, sponsored by Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), would exempt auto companies, an idea Dodd himself fiercely opposes.

Senate Democrats have been trying to push through The Wall Street Reform Act for almost a month, despite a number of procedural obstacles possible only in the Senate, and thus catch up to the efforts of the House, which approved its version of financial reform late last year.

Many of the provisions, from too-big-to-fail authority to new capital requirements, are meant to avoid the possible collapse and government bailout of big firms, as was the case with AIG , Citigroup and Bank of America in 2008.

Some restrictions would also affect the two big remaining Wall Street firms, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley .

Passage is almost assured, especially if the bill contains enough compromise measures to attract the support of a few moderate Republicans, should 60 votes be needed.

The president has said he wants to sign a compromise measure into law by Memorial Day weekend, but Congressional sources say sometime closer to the Fourth of July now looks more realistic.

- Reuters contributed to this report.