Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) does not have
enough solid commitments from GOP lawmakers to block consideration of a
Democratic Wall Street reform bill.
McConnell has circulated a letter within the GOP conference that would have Republicans pledge to block a motion to proceed to a financial regulatory reform bill unless Democrats agree to reopen it for bipartisan negotiations.
But McConnell has fallen short of the 41 signatures he needs
to send Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) a clear signal.
Collins said that she supports some of the provisions in the bill but has concerns about the way Democrats have handled it, specifically their decision to cut off talks with Republican negotiators before a bipartisan deal was reached.
But Collins has declined to pledge in a public letter that she would vote to filibuster the reform bill unless Democrats make amends.
It is unclear if any other Republicans senators have declined to sign the letter.
Collins’s stance is a significant setback to McConnell, who wants to force Democrats to return to the negotiating table.
A senior Democratic aide said that Reid will go forward with his plan to bring Wall Street reform to the floor next week.
A senior Republican lawmaker confirmed that McConnell had circulated a letter among fellow Republicans promising that the entire GOP conference would vote against a motion to proceed to the reform bill unless Democrats resume negotiations.
“The only way we can get in the room is to show Democrats that they can’t ram a bill through the Senate,” said the lawmaker.
A senior GOP aide framed it in a more benign way.
“It’s a letter urging a bipartisan approach to a final financial regulation bill,” said the aide.
Collins may change her mind but without her support, Republicans have significantly less leverage to persuade Democrats to redraft the bill advanced by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.).
McConnell has taken a strong stance against Dodd’s bill because he argues it would enable future bailouts of massive financial institutions.
“Its authors claim that the bill gives the government the authority to wind down failing firms with no exposure to the taxpayer,” McConnell said in a speech Wednesday. “But as a factual matter, the bill creates bailout funds, authorizes bailouts, allows for back-door bailouts from the FDIC, Treasury and the Fed, and even expands the scope of future bailouts."
A GOP aide speculated that McConnell may soon approach Reid with his suggestions for improving the bill, even though McConnell is in a weaker position than if he had the votes to block it.
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), vice chairman of the Democratic conference and a member of the Banking Committee, said he would welcome hearing McConnell’s proposals.