Democrats look at Senate GOP trio to win votes for Wall Street reform

Three Senate Republicans are in the spotlight as possible votes for a Wall Street reform bill.

Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Judd Gregg (N.H.) are all seen as gettable votes by Democrats, who plan to bring their financial overhaul legislation to the floor next week.

Collins has declined to sign a letter circulated by GOP leaders that would commit Republicans to voting against the legislation prepared by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.).

Corker, a Banking panel member who worked with Dodd on the financial overhaul legislation, was disappointed when Dodd ended their talks and introduced a bill on his own. Still, Corker has said he believes some differences between Republicans and Democrats on the legislation could be bridged.

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Gregg, the retiring chairman of the Budget Committee who nearly joined the Obama administration last year as Commerce secretary, has criticized Democrats this week for not trying to conclude work on Wall Street reform in a bipartisan manner. He’s also faulted a rush to the floor on the bill.

But Gregg has predicted the legislation will pass and rejected some GOP criticism of the legislation this week as over-the-top.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), an influential member of the Banking panel, on Friday floated the names of the three Republicans as the most likely GOP votes for financial reform.

“I hope that, among the Republicans, there are some people who want to support consumers and the American public,” Reed said during an appearance on MSNBC.

“We've had some consideration and cooperation by people like Judd Gregg, Bob Corker, Susan Collins, and there are others. And I just hope we have those votes.”

None of the three Republicans are up for reelection in 2010.

Democrats are likely to need more than one Republican to join them on the financial overhaul.

Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), one of the upper chamber’s most conservative Democrats, has withheld support for the legislation because of concerns over new regulations it would place on insurance companies.

Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) also have reportedly held back from endorsing the legislation.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) said Thursday he is not certain Democrats would have all 59 votes in their conference for a motion to proceed to the bill.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) has led the charge against the financial bill, calling it legislation that perpetuates government bailouts of financial institutions.

Dodd filed his bill with the full Senate on Thursday evening, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has signaled his intention to bring it to the floor next week.

Reid's timeline sets up a key procedural vote on a motion to proceed that might be seen as a test for Republicans, staking out which — if any — GOP senators are willing to break ranks.

Democrats appear to be daring Republicans to vote against the bill in a belief that public opinion will punish lawmakers seen as protecting big banks.

Reed stepped up the rhetorical pressure on his colleagues on Friday, characterizing the choice in that vote as siding with the middle class or with Wall Street interests.

“I think, frankly, this vote is going to be very telling,” Reed said. “Those who vote against moving forward to debate this bill ... are saying we support the big banks right now, which are making a huge amount of money.”