The Senate tonight passed a procedural amendment that will allow debate on S. 3217, the Wall Street Transparency and Accountability Act of 2010, to proceed.
After three days of impasse, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., asked at 6:15 p.m. for unanimous consent to proceed to floor action on the omnibus financial services reform legislation, and, hearing no objection, ruled the motion in order.
In a statement on the Senate floor, Reid said he would introduce the first amendment. That amendment, he said, would be introduction of the version of the bill reported out in late March by the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee as modified by an agreement Sunday that toughened the derivatives regulation provisions.
Those provisions represented a compromise between the derivatives provisions in the Senate Banking bill and the tougher provisions reported out last Wednesday by the Senate Agriculture Committee.
The Senate then adjourned without an agreement as to a list of amendments that would be considered.
A Reid spokesman said an amendment schedule would be prepared Thursday. She could give no estimate as to how many amendments would be ruled in order, or how long floor action on the bill would take. Other Senate staffers said debate will start at 12:15 p.m. Thursday and could go on for two weeks.
Reid’s simple request for unanimous consent climaxed a tumultuous week in which Republicans three times blocked floor consideration of the bill.
The impasse ended in late afternoon, when Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced a meeting of the Republican caucus that he would allow floor debate to proceed.
He did so after Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the highest-ranking Republican member of the Senate Banking Committee, issued a statement indicating that talks on compromise legislation with Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., had failed.
Dodd, chairman of the Banking Committee, is the primary sponsor of S. 3217. He has been in charge of efforts to craft the bill since last fall, and he first introduced it in early December. He decided in late January to go back to the drawing board after failing to win any Republican support for the bill.
With members of the committee breaking into two-man bipartisan teams, the legislation was reworked, but, in the end, Republicans declined to support it.
McConnell said Republicans had decided to allow floor debate on the bill after winning a commitment from Dodd and other Democrats that language drafted by Republicans McConnell believed would put an end to government bailouts of failing large banks.
Democrats, led by Dodd, argued that McConnell’s arguments were specious, that the bill as presented to Republicans would do just that, and furthermore, that Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., had played a key role in drafting the provision in contention.
But McConnell disagreed. He said the decision of Republicans to use their 41 votes to block floor debate “was instrumental in gaining assurances from Sen. Dodd that changes will be made to end taxpayer bailouts and the dangerous notion that certain financial institutions are too big to fail.”