Reid strategy vindicated by GOP acquiescence

REID STRATEGY VINDICATED BY GOP ACQUIESCENCE…. It’s still not altogether clear exactly why Senate Republicans caved yesterday on debating Wall Street reform. Maybe it was the threat of an all-night session; maybe it was the Goldman Sachs hearing on Tuesday; maybe they believed their recent tactics were politically unwise.

Whatever the motivation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) strategy looks pretty good this morning. The Nevadan tried a new approach — he played some hardball — and got exactly the results he had hoped for.

With political pressure mounting, Senate Republicans relented on Wednesday and agreed to let Democrats open debate on legislation that would impose the most far-reaching overhaul of the nation’s financial regulatory system since the aftermath of the Depression.

The decision by Republicans to allow floor deliberations came after they voted three days in a row to block the bill, and it suggested that they saw political peril in being depicted as impeding tougher rules for Wall Street.

The GOP is generally fairly adept at the political chess game, but this week proved to be something of a debacle for the minority party. Going into the week, Reid and Senate Dems had two main objectives: (1) advance the Wall Street reform bill to the floor; and (2) make Republicans look like lackeys for wildly unpopular banks and financial industry elites. By last night, when the motion to proceed was approved by unanimous consent, Republicans had effectively helped Democrats with both goals.

This is not to say it was a total loss for the GOP. There are reports that the liquidation fund Dems had sought will be scuttled as the bill advances, and Republicans may yet make further changes through amendments on the floor. But the GOP complained bitterly about a variety of other issues, and the NYT noted that “Republicans won no guarantees of concessions on any of these matters.”

After several tough months, it’s led Harry Reid to walk with a bounce in his step for a change. Roll Call noted this morning that the Democratic leader “has been walking around the Senate lately with a broad smile, his shoulders back and a hint of a swagger.”

The report added that Reid spent a year and a half trying to forge bipartisan deals with Republicans who just want to say no to everything, including their own ideas. He’s been forced to adopt a tougher strategy — on the jobs bill, extension of unemployment benefits, and Wall Street reform — and it’s proving to be effective, at least for now.

As for what’s next on the financial regulatory reform package, the floor debate is likely to begin as early as today, with a final floor vote expected in mid-May.