Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has been battling the banks the last few weeks in an effort to get 60 votes lined up for bankruptcy reform. He's losing.
On Monday night in an interview with a radio host back home, he came to a stark conclusion: the banks own the Senate.
"And the banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place," he said on WJJG 1530 AM's "Mornings with Ray Hanania." Progress Illinois picked up the quote.
Earlier Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told the Huffington Post that the most important provision of bankruptcy reform -- the authority for a bankruptcy judge to renegotiate mortgages, known as cramdown, which banks strongly oppose -- could get ripped out of the bill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pushed back, saying that a bill without such a provision wouldn't be reform at all.
While Durbin has been negotiating with individual banks over the last several weeks, bank lobbyists and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) have been whipping up opposition to it. A growing number of Democrats have announced opposition to cramdown, including Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Jon Tester (Mont.).
"There's been a tendency on the part of some who are advocates for the legislation to overestimate the number of votes in favor," said Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.). "When I was actively involved at the moment it broke down it was my impression there were no Republicans who were willing to support it and at least a few Democrats have stated openly on the record that they were in opposition. How you get to 60 with those numbers is a mathematical problem."
Ryan Grim is the author of the forthcoming book This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America