WASHINGTON – Senator Scott Brown said this afternoon that he would vote against a financial overhaul bill that Democrats are currently pushing as a way to curb the reckless practices that contributed to the 2008 economic meltdown.
“If it’s the present bill, I can’t support it,” Brown said, in his strongest statement yet on the financial legislation that is expected to grip Washington in the coming weeks. “It’s going to hurt community banks and small banks, it’s going to hurt small businesses. It’s going to be an extra layer of regulation, and it’s clearly being used by the administration to drive a wedge and use it for political fodder, and I think that’s wrong.”
Senator Christopher J. Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and chief author of the proposal, is planning to meet this afternoon with the ranking Republican on the committee, Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama.
Although Brown is opposed to the current bill, the Massachusetts Republican left open the possibility that he could sign on a compromise.
“I want to see when it’s going to come up, how it’s going to come up,” he said. “I’m always open to trying to work something through so it is truly bipartisan.”
Brown, whose vote could be critical as Democrats seek to find a GOP member to avoid a filibuster, assiduously avoided talking about any specifics of the legislation.
When asked what areas he thought should be fixed, he asked a reporter, “Well, what areas do you think should be fixed? I mean, you know, tell me. And then I’ll get a team and go fix it.”
When asked whether he favored a major component of the legislation – one that would create a consumer protection agency – he said, “If we have an area, if you or someone else said this is a real problem area, than let’s fix it. Period. Let’s fix it.”
Several minutes later, he seemed opposed to such an agency, at least somewhat.
“It’s more government, it’s more government regulation at a time when businesses are trying just to pay their bills,” he said. “Is that good? Is that an area we need to fix? If it’s an area we need to fix, then I’m certainly open to it. But I haven’t heard that that’s the biggest thing that’s problematic with it.”
He remains adamantly opposed to the White House approach to the legislation, saying the president is politicizing the plan.
“To take this bill and ram it down people’s throats and try to spot us with commercials and rhetoric is wrong,” Brown said. “We need to solve problems, to get jobs in this country, else we’re going to all have some very serious problems.”
Top Republicans have been arguing that the legislation would allow big banks to be bailed out using taxpayer funds – a claim that Democrats say is a disingenuous distortion.
“Listen, I think we need to stop that mentality of bailing everybody out,” Brown said today.
But when asked if the current legislation does that, he said, “I’m not sure yet. I’m not sure…I’m going to continue to do some research on that.”
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.