WASHINGTON -- Senator Scott Brown said this afternoon that he will support the financial regulation overhaul, giving Senate Democrats a key boost in their plans to pass the landmark bill this week.
Hours after Brown's announcement, Senator Olympia Snowe joined her fellow Maine Republican, Senator Susan Collins, in backing the legislation. Support from the trio of New Englanders almost certainly puts the measure on track for passage.
"While it isn't perfect, I expect to support the bill when it comes up for a vote," Brown, a Massachusetts Republican said this afternoon in a statement. "It includes safeguards to help prevent another financial meltdown, ensures that consumers are protected, and it is paid for without new taxes.""That doesn't mean our work is done," he added "Further reforms are still needed to address the government’s role in the financial crisis, including significant changes to the way Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac operate.”
Brown has been a key swing vote in giving Senate Democrats the votes they need to pass a final bill. He had supported the Senate version of the bill, but he had reservations over the final proposal, which had reconciled House and Senate versions of the bill.
Several changes had been made to win Brown’s vote, including provisions that will allow State Street Corp. and other large banks to continue investing a portion of their money in the investment funds they manage. When Brown later said he opposed a $19 billion tax on large financial institutions that would help pay for the bill, the tax was scrapped.
The House passed the final bill on June 30, sending it to the Senate. But Brown said he wanted to continue studying the bill over the weeklong July 4 recess.
The legislation, which resembles a plan outlined a year ago by President Obama, would seek to curb some of the types of risky trading that led to the economic collapse, increase government tools, and create a bureau within the Federal Reserve to protect consumers from predatory lenders.
Republicans have largely opposed the bill, saying it doesn't fix some of the problems that contributed to the financial crisis, fails to add enough regulations to the housing industry, and reaches too far into private business operations.
Brown and a handful of Senate Republicans, though, have given Democrats the votes they need. It appears as though Senate Democrats may now be on the verge of approving the bill.
Democrats currently control 58 votes in the Senate, but one, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, is opposed to the bill. That put Democrats three votes shy of the 60 needed to stop a filibuster.
As a result, four Senate Republicans who supported the initial version of the bill were courted for their votes. Three of them, Brown, Collins, and Snowe, now have publicly said they will support the final bill.
“I intend to support passage of the legislation when it’s brought before the Senate for consideration," Snowe said in a statement late this afternoon. "While not perfect, the legislation takes necessary steps to implement meaningful regulatory reforms, create strong consumer protections, and restore confidence in the American financial system.”
Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican who backed the Senate version of the bill, has said he is concerned with some of the changes that were made to help pay for the bill and Senate Democrats are not counting on his vote. A spokeswoman for Grassley did not respond to requests for comment.
Another possibility would be to wait for West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin cq to name a temporary successor to the late Senator Robert C. Byrd, who died last month. Manchin said yesterday that he would fill the vacancy no earlier than Friday, and no later than Sunday.
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.