The Wall Street reform effort in Congress will enter a new phase tomorrow, as the conference committee between the House and Senate will meet to begin hashing out the differences between the House and Senate versions which have already passed. The membership of this conference committee was announced today, and the committee will hold its first meeting tomorrow.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office released the list of Democratic House members who will be on this important conference committee. As always, Pelosi also had some feisty things to say about the Democratic position:
"The New Direction Congress is sending a clear message to Wall Street: the party is over. No longer will big banks be able to gamble with the hard-earned dollars of America's workers, and no longer will recklessness on Wall Street cause joblessness on Main Street. The failed policies of President Bush and the Republican-led Congress produced the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression -- and cost millions of Americans their jobs, homes, and retirements. With the leadership and commitment of Chairman Frank and House Democrats to a strong bill that protects consumers, Congress will rein in Wall Street, stand up for Main Street, and ensure the interests of our middle class come first."
Here is the full list of House Democratic conferees:
Howard Berman, Leonard Boswell, John Conyers, Elijah Cummings, Barney Frank, Luis Gutierrez, Paul Kanjorski, Mary Jo Kilroy, Carolyn Maloney, Gregory Meeks, Dennis Moore, Gary Peters, Collin Peterson, Bobby Rush, Heath Shuler, Edolphus Towns, Nydia Velazquez, Maxine Waters, Mel Watt, and Henry Waxman.
Many of these Representatives were chosen due to sitting or chairing committees directly affected by the Wall Street reform proposed new laws (for individual sections of the legislation). But most members come from the committee Representative Barney Frank chairs -- the most important House committee of the bunch, the Financial Services Committee. Frank will be the lead Democrat from the House's side of the Capitol.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office, upon request, released a list of all Senate conferees of both parties. On the Democratic side, Senator Chris Dodd (chair of the banking committee) will be the leader for the Senate Democrats in the conference. The other Democrats on the conference committee will be: Tom Harkin, Tim Johnson, Pat Leahy, Blanche Lincoln, Jack Reed, and Chuck Schumer. This is mostly good news, especially seeing Leahy's name in the list. Blanche Lincoln was expected to be named, due to her having authored one of the most contentious amendments to the Senate bill, a strong derivatives reform measure (much stronger than anyone expected). Of course, the Senate list could have been stronger (adding Sherrod Brown or Thomas Carper or Maria Cantwell, for instance), but it equally could have been a lot weaker (a noticeable absence is Max Baucus, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee).
Here is the list of attendees from the Republican side of the Senate: Saxby Chambliss, Mike Crapo, Bob Corker, Judd Gregg, and Richard Shelby. Noticeable for their absence on this particular list are Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who might have been crossover votes. The five Republicans named will likely vote as a solid "no" bloc for the Republicans, which is to be expected in these times.
The list of House Republicans is likely to be just as irrelevant to the process of Democrats agreeing on the final bill's language, but for completeness' sake, we checked Minority Leader John Boehner's press releases to find the entire list of Republican conferees: Spencer Bachus, Joe Barton, Judy Biggert, Scott Garrett, Sam Graves, Jeb Hensarling, Darrell Issa, Frank Lucas, Shelley Moore Capito, Ed Royce, and Lamar Smith.
These will be the negotiators for whatever is in the final legislative language of the Wall Street reform bill. The House and Senate versions are different (as they always are), and it will be interesting to see whether the final bill is a combination of the strongest parts of both bills, or the weakest possible language that might get through the Senate.
Even though they will not be sitting on the conference committee, moderate Maine Senators Snowe and Collins will likely have an impact on the debate, as might also Scott Brown from Massachusetts and Charles Grassley from Iowa -- because all four have already voted with Democrats for the Senate's version of the bill. Democrats will likely be courting these four Republicans to achieve the votes necessary to prevent Republican filibuster attempts (which would come as no surprise).
Blanche Lincoln will be the most interesting to watch, though. Due to her primary challenge from Bill Halter, she surprised everyone a few weeks ago when she introduced much stronger language on derivatives reform than even some Democrats were prepared for. The White House and Senator Dodd both tried to push back on Lincoln's amendment, but it made it into the final bill. Cynical political-watchers pointed out that the whole thing was likely a feint, so Lincoln could look tougher on the campaign trail, and that it would likely be yanked out. Then Halter forced a runoff election, which postponed stripping Lincoln's amendment out. Now that Lincoln has secured the Democratic nomination, it will be interesting to see whether she folds on her own amendment, or whether she sees it as an opportunity to show real leadership in the debate (helping her, not incidentally, on the campaign trail). How hard Lincoln fights, and whether her language survives, will be a crucial test for the strength of the final bill.
But while it is too early to see the outcome of the conference committee, at least now we know who the players at the table will be. As I said, the list could have been stronger and more Progressive, but then again it could have been a lot weaker, too. So it will be interesting to see what this group comes up with in the next few weeks. Whether President Obama signs the strongest bill possible, or whether it becomes some watered-down poor excuse for Wall Street regulation hangs in the balance.
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