Two Key GOP Senators Give Dems a Boost on Financial Reform

Changes to financial regulations got a shot in the arm Tuesday with news that two Republican senators will (gasp!) vote with Democrats in favor of the latest version of the legislation. 

Democrats made several key alterations to win the votes of Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine and Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts. They joined Susan Collins, Maine’s other Republican senator, in a show of bipartisanship that would give Democrats the 60 votes they need to break a GOP filibuster and move the bill to the president’s desk. The Republicans’ announced support completes a turnaround from two weeks ago, when the death of Sen. Robert Byrd, a Democrat who had supported the bill, left the majority wondering if they had the votes to move the legislation through the Senate.   

To bring Brown into the fold, Democrats dropped a fee on large banks, replacing the revenue with funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program that bailed out struggling banks during the crisis. They also compromised a bit on the so-called Volcker Rule, allowing banks to invest up to 3 percent of their capital in hedge funds and private-equity firms. As the Associated Press noted, Brown’s deals benefited Massachusetts-based financial companies like Fidelity Investments and State Street Corp. Some of his former supporters are not enthused: “I’m looking at the Scott Brown bumper sticker on back of my car and having serious doubts,” the president of the Greater Boston Tea Party Association told the Boston Herald.  

Democrats now can tell voters they have done something about financial reform, though critics say the bill, with the exception of a few provisions, is a lot of political hot air.   But the economy usually trumps all in the ballot box and jobs may be a catchier issue with voters than "FinReg."

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