Two speeds: slow and stop

TWO SPEEDS: SLOW AND STOP…. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) will kick off the next round of debate on overhauling the nation’s financial regulations, with new safeguards and accountability for Wall Street. The plan is to start working through the details of the bill next week, before Congress’ spring recess.

The unveiling of the language of Dodd’s bill comes five months after the Connecticut senator began working with Republicans on finding common ground, and four months after the House approved its own financial reform legislation.

This is, at least in theory, the kind of effort that can generate bipartisan support. There’s nothing partisan about preventing another crash and ending some of Wall Street’s most reckless and dangerous abuses. Of course, when the House bill came to the floor, it was approved despite literally zero votes from the chamber’s Republicans — even after the financial industry brought the global economy to the brink of collapse, the House GOP still can’t bring itself to support regulations.

And now Senate Republicans have a new message: the GOP will work with Dems on reform if the majority would just slow down.

Republicans on the Senate banking committee said they remain open to finding a bipartisan agreement on legislation to overhaul financial regulation, but they warned the chairman, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), against trying to push a bill through too quickly.

“While we remain open to finding commonground and to working diligently toward passage of bipartisan legislation, we believe a markup scheduled in haste would certainly prevent us from achieving that goal,” said a letter, signed by all 10 Republican committee members and obtained by The Washington Post.

It’s like deja vu all over again: Key Democrats reach out to Republicans to craft bipartisan reform legislation; Republicans refuse to negotiate in good faith and force needless delays; the House passes its bill with overwhelming GOP opposition; and when Dems decide it’s time to actually do something, Senate Republicans insist they might cooperate if Democrats accept delays for the sake of delays.

Sound familiar?

Dodd, thankfully, isn’t buying it. “We’ve been considering this bill for over a year,” Kirstin Brost, a spokeswoman for Dodd, said Saturday. “The public wants Wall Street reform yesterday.”

There’s no reason to slow things down even more. For one thing, policymakers know what they have to do. For another, Republicans who want to protect Wall Street from accountability and safeguards aren’t going to change their mind even if Dodd slows things down even more.

The angle to keep your eye on, though, is how the GOP rationalizes its opposition. Wall Street and the financial industry isn’t exactly popular right now — Americans generally understand that the industry’s worst, unchecked practices brought the economy to the brink. For Republicans to side, again, with Wall Street lobbyists — in an election year, no less — is not without electoral risks.