WASHINGTON - Defending his company under blistering criticism, the CEO of Goldman Sachs testily told skeptical senators Tuesday that customers who bought securities from the Wall Street giant in the run-up to a national financial crisis came looking for risk "and that's what they got."
Lloyd Blankfein and other Goldman executives were lambasted by lawmakers for "unbridled greed" in an often-electric daylong showdown between Wall Street and Congress -- with expletives frequently undeleted. Unrepentant, five present and two past Goldman officials unflinchingly stood by their conduct before a Senate investigatory panel and denied helping to cause the financial near-meltdown that turned into the worst recession since the Great Depression.
"Unfortunately, the housing market went south very quickly," Blankfein told skeptical senators. "So people lost money in it."
During questioning by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) about synthetic credit default swaps, Blankfein observed that "clearly, the world needs more regulation."
WATCH: Blankfein: "Clearly, the world needs more regulation."
Democrats hoped the hearing would build momentum for legislation, now before the Senate, to increase regulation of the nation's financial system. That legislation, blocked for the second straight day by Republicans, would crack down on the kind of lightly regulated housing market investments that helped set off the crisis in 2007.
Republicans "pounded" Goldman, while continuing to filibuster debate. The New York Times reports:
Top Democrats said it helped to put a face on an economic calamity that is as complicated as a synthetic collateralized debt obligation. But the real impact of the Goldman Sachs inquiry seemed difficult to gauge when it came to Republicans.
While Senate Republicans joined Democrats in pounding on the Goldman executives at the hearing and expressed comparable outrage over what they described as blatant conflicts of interest in the structuring of Goldman deals, they confidently trooped over to the Senate floor to vote again to block the bill.
Tuesday's vote to debate the financial reform bill failed to win the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican-backed filibuster. The final tally, 57-41, was the same as Monday, with Democratic Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) again siding with GOP senators and voting not to debate the legislation. But Nelson might not be the only senator to cross the aisle.
On Tuesday evening, CNN reported that Republican Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) is poised to join Democrats and vote in favor of debate:
The American people "want us to get something done," Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said in explaining why he would eventually join Democrats in insisting that the bill be debated on the floor.
Voinovich, who is not seeking re-election in November, would not say exactly how long he would wait before switching his vote but said, "I have an idea of how much time it takes to cut a deal." He also said he expects "a whole bunch" of other Republicans to make the same decision.
A third vote to debate the reform bill could happen as early as 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 28.