GOP Blocks Three Key Anti-Wall Street Amendments

05/18/2010 04:51 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Ryan Grim Washington Bureau Chief, The Huffington Post

Senate Republicans blocked Democrats from voting on three amendments Tuesday that are strongly opposed by Wall Street.

Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top-ranking Republican on the Banking Committee, rose to object to a vote on one of the most talked-about amendments, cosponsored by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). Levin-Merkley would ban commercial banks from trading for their own benefit with taxpayer-backed money.

Shelby also objected to an amendment from Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) that would rein in predatory practices of payday lenders and one from Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) that would have banned naked credit default swaps, which were at the heart of the financial crisis. Dorgan's amendment was expected to fail, but Levin-Merkley had been surging in recent days. [UPDATE: The floor chaos continued late into the night.]

When it looked as if Levin-Merkley had at least 50 votes, the threshold was moved up to 60. Now that it appears within striking distance of 60 votes, the new tactic is to deny it a vote altogether.

Negotiations around Levin-Merkley have been going on throughout the day, with Levin and Merkley working out details of the bill with holdouts. But without an opportunity for a vote on the floor, those successful negotiations add up to little.

"Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is yet again doing the bidding of Wall Street and is blocking the Merkley-Levin amendment that will ban high-risk trading inside the lending and depository institutions from coming up for a vote today," said a statement from Merkley's office after the blockade. "They won't even allow a vote with a 60 vote threshold. On a day two Democrats are missing from the chamber. Wall Street lobbyists, and consequently Senator McConnell and the Republicans, want to kill the Merkley-Levin amendment by attrition because they're afraid of losing a vote. If this isn't a sign of the Republicans having the backs of the big banks on Wall Street over the American people, I don't know what is."

UPDATE: Here's Sen. Bernie Sanders and MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan going over the current state of play of the bank reform bill and various key amendments: