WASHINGTON Senator Scott Brown is assiduously avoiding any commitments on the financial overhaul legislation, despite repeated efforts by top House and Senate lawmakers to win his vote.
The 43-member House and Senate conference committee met for two hours late yesterday afternoon to scrap a $19 billion tax, after Brown threatened to vote against the bill unless it was removed.
This morning, Brown continued to hold out, saying he would not make a decision on the bill for at least another week, after the Senate returns from a weeklong recess. The House is planning to take up the issue this afternoon, but Senate Democrats say they won't have time and won't vote until the week of July 12.
I appreciate the conference committee revisiting the Wall Street reform bill and removing the $19 billion bank tax, Brown said in a statement. Over the July recess, I will continue to review this important bill. I remain committed to putting in place safeguards to prevent another financial meltdown, ensure that consumers are protected, and that this bill is paid for without new taxes."
Several times Brown has made himself the focus in the debate, as Senate Democrats try to win enough Republican votes to pass the bill. Several changes have been made to address Brown's concerns, including provisions that will allow State Street Corp. and other large banks to continue investing a portion of their money in securities markets.
Nonetheless, Democrats say they may have the votes, even if Brown decides not to support it.
I dont know what his problem is, Representative Barney Frank, a Newton Democrat and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said this morning. But, he added, It also looks as if there are 60 votes without him.
Democrats are counting on two Republicans from Maine Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe as well as Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington who has previously opposed the bill because she wants it to go further. Cantwell told reporters this afternoon that she was still studying the bill, while Collins said, "On balance, I am inclined to support it." Snowe hasn't yet commented on the changes.
The final vote that Democrats need would come when West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin, a Democrat, appoints a replacement to fill the seat of Senator Robert C. Byrd, who died on Monday. That appointment would likely not be made for at least several days.
The bill is lengthy and complex, but the overarching components have been debated for weeks. The changes made yesterday are three pages long, eliminating the bank tax and replacing it with $11 billion in funds saved by eliminating the 2008 bank bailout and a small increase in bank fees paid to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
The Senate version of the bill, which Brown voted for, did not include a method of paying for the new regulations. Instead, it would have added to the federal deficit a spending approach that Brown has opposed in other instances, most notably to vote against extending unemployment insurance.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.