WASHINGTON – Senate Republicans held firm today and rejected opening debate on a bill calling for comprehensive financial regulations, with Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown joining his GOP colleagues to send the bill back to behind-the-scenes negotiations.
The 57-to-41 vote -- which was three shy of the number needed to proceed without a filibuster -- is a temporary setback for Democrats who have been pushing for the biggest overhaul of financial regulations since the Great Depression. It could give Republicans, who oppose several key aspects of the proposal, more momentum in brokering a bipartisan compromise.
Brown for the first time detailed the provisions that would need to be altered in order to earn his vote, including the elimination of a $50 billion fund made up of new bank fees that would be used to liquidate failing firms. He also wants certain provisions of the bill to exempt insurance companies – something that several Massachusetts businesses, including MassMutual and Liberty Mutual, have been concerned about.
“The orders apparently have been given from higher above to just push it forward, score some political points,” the Massachusetts Republican said in a brief interview after he voted. "There’s no reason to go to a vote today except to spot the Republicans to say we’re in favor of Wall Street and they’re in favor of Main Street – yeah, I get it. But it’s time to move on.”
Brown said he "absolutely" could envision voting for a final package, if a series of changes were made.
It was a crucial vote for Brown, who came to Washington to stop health care but instead has helped give Republicans the ammunition they need to alter the Democrats’ plan for financial regulatory changes. He is also shifting from previous practice when he voted several times with Democrats to move a bill along, even though he opposed the final package.
Republicans were united in their opposition to allowing the debate to move forward. Senator Ben Nelson, of Nebraska, was the only Democrat to join Republicans in voting against it. Two Republican senators were not present for the vote and at the last minute, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid changed his vote to a "no," a procedural move that will allow him to bring the matter up again as early as today.
Senator John F. Kerry, who is a senior member of the Finance and Commerce committees, was critical of Republicans, saying "they should at least allow the debate to go forward."
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.