Financial Reform in Limbo

| Thu May 20, 2010 12:20 AM EDT

We've got good news and bad news today. The bad news is that Harry Reid tried to invoke cloture on financial reform and failed. The good news is that it's primarily because a couple of Democratic senators voted against cloture in order to give themselves time to introduce amendments that would make the legislation tougher.

If it works — if their amendments pass quickly and cloture gets invoked soon — it will have been worth it. But if the bill gets delayed much longer, it's in trouble. The reason, as usual, is Republican obstructionism. Ezra Klein explains:

It's worth saying why Reid wants to move to a final vote. The answer is floor time. Next week, the Senate is scheduled to take up the next war supplemental, which will have funding both for Iraq and Afghanistan and also for various disaster-relief efforts, and it will take up a bill to extend economic supports for the jobless. If the Senate doesn't finish financial regulation this week, it probably can't do those bills next week because the GOP's routine filibusters mean that each vote will require days of floor time. And the plan, as of now, is for the Senate to adjourn come Memorial Day. Of course, the Senate could just choose to work past memorial Day, which would solve the problem of floor time.

Most Republican filibusters aren't really meant to kill bills. In fact, in a lot of cases, once the bills finally come to the floor they get overwhelming Republican support. What they're meant to do is delay. The longer it takes to pass bills, the fewer bills get passed. Mitch McConnell knows that financial reform is going to pass eventually, and given the anti-Wall Street sentiment among the electorate it's likely that a lot of Republicans will feel like they have to vote for it. But if you can make it eat up a lot of floor time, it means Democrats can't do much of anything else. And as far as Republicans are concerned, the less that Democrats can do the better.