CALLING OUT MCCONNELL…. In a thorough report yesterday, McClatchy noted, “Leaders of both parties had vowed for months that consideration of financial regulatory changes wouldn’t mirror the angry, partisan debates over health care and stimulating the economy. Everyone agreed that voters want tough new restrictions on Wall Street, and the legislation that the Senate is to take up later this month is full of bipartisan ideas.”
So, what happened? Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) decided this week to throw “a rhetorical stick of dynamite into what had been a collegial debate.” He did so by lying about the substance of the proposal, and raising bogus complaints about the process.
That McConnell is obviously, shamelessly doing Wall Street’s bidding doesn’t seem to faze him. Indeed, the larger dynamic is surprisingly transparent. While McConnell is saying the Democratic proposal would somehow “institutionalize” bailouts, Matt Yglesias explained, “The point of the new regulatory powers it to (a) prevent the need for bailouts and (b) provide an alternative process to bailouts. The banks aren’t paying McConnell to put a stop to bailouts, they’re paying him to prevent the regulations that might stop bailouts.”
But of particular interest, at least politically, was McConnell rushing off to New York last week for a private, behind-closed-doors meeting with hedge fund managers and other Wall Street elites. It was after this meeting — where McConnell reportedly sought campaign contributions — that the Republican Senate leader returned to D.C. determined to kill the legislation that would bring some accountability to the same industry whose recklessness nearly destroyed the global financial system.
Today, President Obama was rather direct in calling McConnell out. In the weekly White House address, the president made note of the legislative landscape, and reminded Americans about McConnell’s antics: “Now, unsurprisingly, these reforms have not exactly been welcomed by the people who profit from the status quo — as well their allies in Washington. This is probably why the special interests have spent a lot of time and money lobbying to kill or weaken the bill. Just the other day, in fact, the Leader of the Senate Republicans and the Chair of the Republican Senate campaign committee met with two dozen top Wall Street executives to talk about how to block progress on this issue.
“Lo and behold, when he returned to Washington, the Senate Republican Leader came out against the common-sense reforms we’ve proposed. In doing so, he made the cynical and deceptive assertion that reform would somehow enable future bailouts — when he knows that it would do just the opposite. Every day we don’t act, the same system that led to bailouts remains in place — with the exact same loopholes and the exact same liabilities. And if we don’t change what led to the crisis, we’ll doom ourselves to repeat it. That’s the truth. Opposing reform will leave taxpayers on the hook if a crisis like this ever happens again.”
McConnell’s Wall Street meeting, in other words, is quickly becoming one of the central aspects of the debate. Perhaps the Minority Leader would be willing to shed some additional light on what transpired? Who, exactly, did he meet with? How much money did he collect? What did the Wall Street elites demand, specifically, and what did he promise?
I wonder what the reaction might be if Senate Dems raised the prospect of some kind of investigation into the meeting, complete with subpoenas for attendees.