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FinReg Update: Cloture Vote Today, Dodd Alters Derivatives Language

Today, at 2 p.m., the Senate will vote on Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) motion to invoke cloture on Sen. Chris Dodd’s (D-Conn.) financial regulatory reform bill. The 60-vote-hurdle cloture motion, if it passes, would end debate on the bill and in 30 hours — after 8 p.m. on Thursday — the Senate could take a final 50-vote-hurdle vote on the measure. Right now, it seems that Reid does not have 60 votes, and therefore debate will continue and he will have to file for cloture again.

The Senate is no longer taking any new amendments to the Dodd bill, but is allowing secondary amendments tacked on to other amendments. At the literal third-to-last minute yesterday, Dodd amended Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s (D-Ark.) controversial derivatives language, which would have forced banks to spin off their derivatives trading desks into separately financed entities. Brady Dennis at The Washington Post offers a good explanation of the derivatives compromise language and the trouble it has caused in the last 24 hours:

Dodd offered a clever Washington solution aimed to appease both friends and foes of the provision. His amendment preserves the tough language — but it postpones any action for two years so it can be studied. And it assigns that study to a new council of regulators, headed by Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, whose members have serious reservations about such a dramatic measure and may very well kill it in the end.

Voila. Language saved, action averted. Move on.

Problem is, the idea didn’t sit so well with Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), chief advocate of the derivatives ban, who was in Arkansas on Tuesday fighting for her Senate seat in a primary election. (Her bid to secure the nomination fell short, setting up a June 8 runoff election.) When contacted about Dodd’s proposal, staff members seemed unaware of it. They later sent out a statement on Lincoln’s behalf. “I remain fully committed to my provision and will fight efforts to weaken it,” she said. “I’m proud of the support my provision has received both inside and outside the Senate and will defend it should there be a debate on the Senate floor.”

Nor did the banks cheer Dodd’s compromise. “It’s immediately going to have a chilling effect,” said one banking lobbyist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak more freely. “Markets crave certainty. All this does is introduce a comic amount of uncertainty.”

But if the compromise brings Republicans over to vote for the bill, it will stay. Notably, the Dodd bill punts on a number of issues — including, for instance, the Volcker Rule banning proprietary trading at federally insured banks.

Here are the remaining amendments to the Dodd bill. Not all will receive a vote:

  • Sen. Sam Brownback’s (R-Kans.) amendment to exclude automakers from from the authority of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.
  • Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Mark Pryor’s (D-Ark.) amendment on small business fairness, which might exempt small businesses from CFPA rules.
  • Sen. Arlen Specter’s (D-Pa.) amendment of section 20 of the Securities and Exchange Act, allowing private civil action against people that violate certain SEC laws.
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) amendment to restore the application of federal antitrust laws to health insurers.
  • Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-R.I.) amendment to give states stronger authority to protect consumers from usurious lenders.
  • Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) amendment to limit affiliations with certain member banks.
  • Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Richard Lugar’s (R-Ind.) amendment to require the disclosure of payments by resource extraction issuers.
  • Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-Ala.) amendment to make the Consumer Financial Protection Agency funded by Congress, rather than the Federal Reserve.
  • Sen. David Vitter’s (R-La.) amendment exempting manufacturers and entrepreneurs from some regulations.

And here is a quick wrap-up of yesterday’s hot Senate action on financial regulatory reform:

  • Sen. Judd Gregg’s (R-N.H.) amendment to prohibit taxpayer bailouts of fiscally irresponsible state and local governments was withdrawn.
  • Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-Tenn.) amendment on the applicability of state laws to national banks failed, 43-55.
  • Sen. Tom Carper’s (D-Del.) amendment on the applicability of state laws to national banks passed, 80-18.
  • Sen. Byron Dorgan’s (D-N.D.) secondary amendment to ban naked credit default swaps was tabled, 57-38.

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