Senate supports auto dealer carveout

The Senate voted Monday in support of exempting auto dealers from a new consumer financial regulator that is part of the Wall Street overhaul bill.

The 60-30 vote is a nonbinding message to House and Senate lawmakers drafting the final version of the legislation. The vote comes over the strong opposition of the White House, Defense Department and Treasury Department.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) bucked the White House to vote in support of the exemption. Ten senators were absent.

The House passed legislation in December that included an exemption for auto dealers. The Senate Wall Street overhaul bill passed last week did not include the same exemption.

The House and Senate are planning to resolve differences between the two pieces of legislation before the July Fourth recess. Monday's nonbinding vote and the House's provision from December may not prevail in the end.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) both oppose the carveout.

"Just because it's there doesn't mean it has to stay," Dodd said Thursday when asked about the House provision.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) is the main backer of legislation carving out auto dealers. The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) is strongly supporting an exemption.

"The Senate clearly supports not including Main Street auto dealers in the Wall Street reform bill," NADA President Phil Brady said. "Dealers across the country are pleased that both the Senate and House are now on record supporting language which is pro-consumer and preserves dealer-assisted financing as an affordable, convenient and competitive source of credit."

Democratic senators joining Republicans in support of the carveout were: Evan Bayh (Ind.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), John Kerry (Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Herb Kohl (Wis.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Reid, Jay Rockefeller (W.Va), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Arlen Specter (Pa.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.). Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) also supported the motion.

Senators absent during the vote were: Robert Byrd (D-W.Va), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). 

This story was posted at 6:01 p.m. and updated at 6:46 p.m.