March 12th, 2010
12:01 PM ET
13 years ago

Left pushes back on Wall Street reforms

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Progressives in Congress are growing restless on what they perceive as a lack of progress on banking regulation reform."](CNN) – In the U.S. Senate, the progressives are restless. A handful of them are making it known that Democratic leaders shouldn't take their votes for granted when it comes to Wall Street reform.

"I won't vote for a bill if the banks have control of it," Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, told CNN.

Brown sits on the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee and is among a group who are worried Democrats have given away too much to woo Republican support for the bill. "Republicans are doing the bidding of their benefactors, the banks," he said.

"We're in a wait and see mode," fellow Banking Democrat Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, told CNN. Earlier this week, Merkley and four other senators introduced a bill that would change the rules of the game on Wall Street far more dramatically than the proposal Dodd was said to be negotiating.

"We watched investment houses blow up, now there's even greater risk in the system," said Merkley, who insisted Congress needs to fix the entire "framework" that allowed big banks to make risky bets putting other peoples money at stake.

The warnings come as Banking Chairman Chris Dodd announced negotiations with Republicans are taking too long, and he will unveil his own Wall Street reform bill on Monday. Though Dodd's proposal has no Republican support, the Connecticut Democrat said he will incorporate many Republican ideas in the hopes he will win bipartisan support in time.

Two others senators who have expressed deep reservations: Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Delaware. In remarks on the Senate floor, Kaufman warned he won't get behind "compromise measures that give only the illusion of change and a false sense of accomplishment."

Sanders told CNN he would vote against a Wall Street reform bill unless it includes an independent consumer regulator and tough new restrictions on banks.

"The American people are disgusted with the behavior of Wall Street and they don't want us to go back to a time when Wall Street had no accountability and no regulation," said Sanders.

For months, Dodd has been focused not on his left flank, but on wooing members to his right. Since late last year, he's been negotiating with Republicans and trying to craft a bipartisan bill. But some frustrated Democrats have grumbled that Dodd is repeating the mistake Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, made when he lost weeks negotiating health care reform, courting Republican votes in vain. On Thursday, Dodd abruptly announced he's cutting short negotiations in favor of moving forward with the bill. "The time is shrinking to get this done," Dodd told reporters.

His negotiating partner, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, sounded surprised and miffed by the shortened timetable. Corker blamed Dodd's sudden impatience on the brewing fight over health care reform, reconciliation and the "tensions" its stirring up in the Senate.
Some Democrats, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Sen. Tim Johnson, South Dakota, told CNN they are still hopeful they can get a bipartisan bill in time.

But the progressives would be happy going it alone – and challenging the other party to vote no on Wall Street reform in an election year.
"He can't get a good bill with Republican support because the banks have Republicans on a short leash," Brown said. "They're doing the bidding of their benefactors, the banks."

As for those negotiating, Brown added: "I don't question the motives on either side."

Still another Democratic senator, who asked not to be named, said the influence of banks isn't limited to senators in just one party. "These banking institutions are so powerful, they're all afraid of taking them on," the senator said.

Filed under: Congress • Wall Street
soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Jim in Florida

    Goodness I get so tired of the assertions that the banks only support the GOP. Look, the tax cheat Geitner was placed as Sec Treas to do one thing – save the NY banks – and he did a great job of it with what seems to be a never ending spending spree by the Obama administration and this reckless Congress.

    So pleasssseeeezzzz....enough of the banks and the GOP – like so many giant corps, they play both sides and you will find plenty of banking industry money in Demmie coffers.

    March 12, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  2. Center left-out

    Why would the Democrats with the majority give power to negotiate on a 50/50 basis with one Republican. The Obama Administration and Democrats are letting the Republican drag their feet on policies. Only to lose their majority. Wake up Dems. Start passing legislation on Health care, Bank reform and Financial aid, do it fast to prevent a November blood bath.

    March 12, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  3. CJ/PA

    Institute strong banking regulation NOW! How much more do we have to suffer - have we learned nothing after a near collapse of our financial system?? Forget those who are beholden to their banking benefactors and GET IT DONE NOW!!!

    March 12, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  4. AK Steve

    Keep pushing hard. These wall street people RUINED our economy. They need regulating and strict oversight. There greed is NOT an American value. Watch them close.

    Pity that the GOP is the one that allowed them to run wild. But instead of trying to fix the problem they created, the GOP wants to blame it on the other guy. Push them hard too. Hold them all accountable.

    March 12, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  5. sammieb51

    And the Dems should keep pushing back if the reforms are not there to protect the ordinary guy like you and me. Since their irresponsibility in lending and gambling our money in the markets using various non-regulated risky financial vehicles largely caused the problems we are having, spawned and supported by the Republicans from 1998 on, SOMEONE NEEDS TO PUSH THIS POWER BACK or we will all be in soup lines the next crash.

    March 12, 2010 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  6. S Callahan

    Good verbal stance Sen. Brown DOhio....yet we all know what the Bible says about the Bull.....

    It shouldn't but it still amazes me just how fine lined both parties are...and still believe the public is buying it.

    March 12, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  7. al in memphis

    "These banking institutions are so powerful, they're all afraid of taking them on," the senator said.
    Banks almost made the USA economy crash until the public bailed them out- now nothing has changed when it comes to the people having a voice in DC. Foolish to think that Citi-bank CEO can project $20billion in profits while the economy stills crawls along and the US continues to lose economic/manufacturing position in the world. Would a billion less profit and more investment into the economy hurt Citbank

    Ahhh–the days of taxation without representation are back. Let's see what the Tea Partiers have to say about this. I 'mnot going to say I agree with everything Obama administration has done, but I think he has put more attention towards the consumer than the big corporations that are holding middle class and struggling families hostage..

    March 12, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  8. David Burnham

    Why won't these Spineless Lawmakers make a stand to acutally help America and the American people. They all need to step back and look at it from the everyday American's viewpoint. I for one am sick and tired of the BS. With Dodd being a lame duck and leaving anyway why not put him and Bunnig together put all of the cards on the table and tell the American People why we can't get a comprihensive bill through and then let the American People make a choice come election time. If the would only call out who is obstructing things from happening and why but they won't because they are spineless and afraid of the Banks and what they will do to them. I wish we could find a way to make Congress Implode itself with the stupid money that is being spent by lobbyist In my opinion if the special interest groups that spend ridiculous amount of money to get what they want would actually put the money to usefull purpose we would all be better off. What we most sick and tired of is these elites living off of the backs of the American Taxpayer. My question is, When is enough enough?

    March 12, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  9. Kevin in MA

    The day of the defined benefit pension plan is gone due to the high cost of health insurance. We are now forced into the equities markets to save for retirement. After screwing up the health care system, the government took a laissez faire attitude toward Wall street. My retirement accounts, much like most of you folks was devastated due to the reckless behavior of the investment banks. If we are to be forced into these markets to save for retirement, then they must be secure and safe so with prudence on our part, we can live out our "golden years" without fear of starving. I say regulate the sobs so they can't continue to suck us dry.

    March 12, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  10. Hmmm...

    Yes, the roof is leaking and it needs to be replaced but the house is fine so leave it alone. Nothing lasts forever, not even regulations or deregulations, fixes ro let's not get all holy and require major alterations as if they will be the fix of all fixes for eterminty. Tweak it where it needs, beat it back where it needs and let iot breathe where it needs and with the next bust it will have to be dne again. Anything new going on?

    March 12, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  11. tommy

    Nice. The citizenry pays these shills 180K per year plus bens to help the banks screw us. Only in america.

    March 12, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Pkm the gop wants to cmtrol wall st the repub are scard to death that the stock market is doing so good

    March 12, 2010 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  13. Mike Oklahoma City

    Good, the Democrats need to get a spine and stop trying to reach out to the Republican's.

    March 12, 2010 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  14. CommonSense09

    The main reason why most Republicans and some Democrats want less government on certain bills is so they can have more money in their pockets, point in case!!! This article is reason why nothing gets done in Washington for the American people.......Wow! And the crazy thing is, we elected them to screw us all~ Time to stop the madness in either party!!!

    March 12, 2010 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  15. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but....

    I've got an awesome idea of how to get the economy back on track. All we need to do is cut taxes on the rich. They, in turn will use all of that money to create great jobs with nice benefits for all of us.

    Oh, wait.......

    Have a nice day!

    March 12, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  16. D. Bunker

    I'm glad to see some people here are starting to see past the partisan divide, and instead "follow the money." This is a very serious problem, and every American, regardless of party, needs to pull together and create an effective solution. The first rule is: don't trust or vote for anyone talking about deregulation.

    March 12, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
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