Collision course on Wall Street reform

COLLISION COURSE ON WALL STREET REFORM…. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) told reporters today he intends to move forward with his Wall Street reform package this week, despite unanimous Republican opposition.

Jon Chait considers what happens next.

The Democrats clearly see financial reform as a win-win issue for them — either they get one or more Republicans to support it, in which case they get an accomplishment, or else they get Republicans to vote it down, in which case they get a great political issue.

But why choose? Chris Dodd says the Senate is going to hold a vote on his bill Wednesday or Thursday. Republicans still say they can muster 41 votes in opposition. The ideal for Democrats would be to have the whole GOP vote to filibuster the bill, then have a huge debate, and then have one or more Republicans defect and pass the bill anyway. Then you get an accomplishment and a chance to expose the GOP as carrying water for Wall Street.

That sounds about right, but there’s a catch. In order for there to be a “huge debate,” at least on the Senate floor, the motion to proceed has to get 60 votes. At this point, Republicans aren’t just prepared to block an up-or-down vote on the legislation, they’re also prepared to prevent the debate from even happening in the first place, filibustering before they filibuster.

Both sides seem to think the other will blink first — Dems are convinced Republicans don’t really want to be responsible for blocking the reform bill and doing the bidding of Wall Street lobbyists in an election year. Republicans are convinced they can withstand Democratic criticism and force key concessions to make the bill considerably weaker and more to Wall Street’s liking.

We’ll likely see who’s right in a few days.

But as long as we’re here, perhaps now would be a good time to reiterate how truly ridiculous the legislative dynamic is. There will very likely be 59 senators in support of this critical legislation, and 41 opponents. Under the existing rules, the 41-vote minority not only trumps the 59-vote majority, it also has the power to prevent the Senate from even debating the bill in the first place, despite the fact that some of the 41 haven’t the foggiest idea what they’re blocking.

It’s painful to consider the progress the nation could make right now if the Congress operated the way it used to — by majority rule.