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GOP Fighting To Keep Wall Street Negotiations Secret

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For the better part of a year, the GOP has blasted Democrats for legislating "behind closed doors" and making "secret deals." On Monday afternoon, the Senate will vote on a motion to proceed to debate Wall Street reform in public on the Senate floor.

Yet Republicans say their 41 members are united and will oppose the motion, in order to encourage Democrats to continue negotiating with them behind closed doors.

Condemning closed-door negotiations yet voting to prevent public debate is the height of hypocrisy, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) told HuffPost on Monday. "By voting against cloture, Republicans are voting to keep Wall Street negotiations behind closed doors, demanding changes to the bill without public scrutiny. Instead of closed-door deals, they should support open floor debate," said Merkley.

[UPDATE: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) took to the Senate floor Monday night following the vote to hammer Republicans for voting to continue negotiating "behind closed doors" instead of, as they routinely insist, in public.

"Rather than make the case out in the open, on the floor of the Senate, for the changes they want to the Wall Street reform bill, the 41 Senators who voted to block debate are instead saying they want changes worked out behind closed door," said Shaheen. "They are actually saying that they will prevent debate and hold this Wall Street reform bill hostage until they are accommodated behind closed doors."]

The GOP acknowledges that it's time to move forward. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the lead Republican negotiator, spoke before the Independent Community Bankers of America Monday morning and was asked if Congress should allow more time to pass with a commission investigating the root causes of the financial crisis.

"I think we basically know what went wrong. We had a lot of hearings. We've been working on it 15, 16 months now," said Shelby. "The question is, do we agree basically on how to fix it, for lack of a better term, deal with it?"

Shelby said that the global nature of the financial system makes it impossible to guarantee there will never be another crisis, but that the likelihood and severity of them can be mitigated.

"I don't know that you can fix it, because you can't anticipate every problem down the road in the financial sector because of the world -- the way we've connected in the world," he said. "But we can mitigate it as much as we can. And we can send a message, hopefully, that this is not the status quo."

Democratic leaders, meanwhile, are portraying the vote as one for or against Wall Street. "Today, Republicans face a major choice: Will they stand up for the American people, and join us to hold Wall Street accountable for the reckless gambling that cost 8 million Americans their jobs and millions more their economic livelihood?" said Jim Manley, spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). "Or will they follow the marching orders they've been getting at their secret, closed-door meetings with Wall Street executives, and continue to protect Wall Street?"

UPDATE -- From Shaheen's floor statement:

I am deeply disappointed that 41 Senators voted this evening to stop us from even beginning debate on legislation to reign in the reckless and risky Wall Street conduct that brought our economy to its knees.

Rather than make the case out in the open, on the floor of the Senate, for the changes they want to the Wall Street reform bill, the 41 Senators who voted to block debate are instead saying they want changes worked out behind closed door. They are actually saying that they will prevent debate and hold this Wall Street reform bill hostage until they are accommodated behind closed doors.

I would like to see some changes to the bill, too. For example, I think we need to strengthen the provisions in the bill to prevent financial institutions that are supposed to be helping American companies finance their growth plans and families save for their retirement and kids' college educations from making risky side bets for their own profit. But rather than block the Senate from taking up the Wall Street reform until I get what I want, I intend to cosponsor an amendment with Senators Levin and Merkley and then debate the issue openly on the floor. Our amendment prohibits federally-insured banks from engaging in proprietary trading and will impose strict capital charges on large nonbank financial institutions to limit their proprietary trading. We have all learned in recent days about the proprietary trading Goldman Sachs was doing - betting their own money that mortgage-backed securities would fail while getting their clients to invest in mortgage-backed securities.

Mr. President, we need to enact a strong Wall Street reform as soon as possible. While we delay, the big banks on Wall Street have returned to the same types of reckless and risky gambles that brought our economy to the brink of a complete economic meltdown. My grandmother used to say: while the cat's away, the mice will play. Today I think my grandmother would say: while Wall Street reform is delayed, middle class families are being played. Let's be clear: a vote against opening debate on holding Wall Street accountable is a vote to protect Wall Street.

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