Are the Democrats poised to ram through a new financial reform bill and recreate last month’s bruising, rancorous, controversial health care battle? If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stands by his remarks made today, then the answer to that question could be Yes. In a press briefing today, Reid said, “We have talked about this enough. We have negotiated this enough,” while suggesting that a bill overhauling Wall Street and possibly creating a new consumer protection agency could land on the Senate floor as early as next week, Huffington Post‘s Ryan Grim reports. And while Republicans say they want to be able to make changes to the bill before it hits the floor, the Obama administration doesn’t want the GOP to have the chance to whittle away at the legislation and bog down negotiations on the bill.
If the Democrats do indeed go it alone, they’re potentially setting the stage for another health-care-esque bruiser in the Senate. Already, the bill, which should theoretically garner plenty of bipartisan support (everyone wants to end too-big-to-fail, predatory lending, and dangerous financial products, right?), has divided the Senate. Since returning from recess, the debate over new financial reforms has rapidly disintegrated into a partisan shout-fest complete with old-school takedowns (“poppycock”? Really Chris Dodd?), Charlie Brown football folly references, heated floor speeches, and plenty of jabs and upper cuts thrown by each party.
Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kent.), taking a cue from GOP strategist Frank Luntz, claimed the 1,300-page bill would create “endless taxpayer-funded bailouts” and should be revamped or scrapped. McConnell’s remarks in particular touched off the week’s playground spat, leading to Dodd’s “poppycock” remark at GOPers and three Democratic senators backing reform—Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Jeff Merkley of Oregon—painting the Republicans as oh-so-cozy with Big Finance. One of the few lawmakers trying to pacify both sides and asking for a reasonable debate on the bill is Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who earlier today asked Dems and GOPers to cool down and show some professionalism.
Corker’s pleas, however, could be bowled over if Reid decides the Democrats need to plow onward with financial reform. Doing so might help Congress meet its Memorial Day deadline for delivering a bill to President Obama; but it could further divide an already polarized Congress (if that’s even possible) and turn financial reform into the same kind of ugly fight that so marred the health care debate.