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Monday, April 26, 2010

Will Republicans Self-Destruct Over Wall Street Reform?

Television setThe ad pretty much writes itself. It opens with news headlines, while bass and cellos saw a low, dark note; "U.S. charges Goldman with subprime fraud," "Goldman Sachs fraud case stunning in its indictment of Wall Street culture," "Goldman Cited 'Serious' Profit on Mortgages," and the kicker; "Goldman Sachs Bonuses: Bank Paying Staff Over $5 Billion For Just Three Months Work."

"We could've reformed Wall Street," that voice-over guy who does all the political ads says. "We could've reined in corruption. We could've ended huge bailouts and said, 'Too big to fail is too big to exist.' We could've regulated or outlawed risky and exotic investments schemes that have turned our economy into a failing casino. We wanted to do it. You wanted to do it. We could've done it. But Republicans wouldn't even allow the debate.

"All we needed was one vote."

At this point, you show a black and white image of the Republican incumbent. "One vote," the narrator continues. "One independent-minded Republican. One Senator willing to put the good of the nation above petty partisan politics. One politician who knows that fighting Wall Street corruption is more important than their party. Just one Republican with courage.

"One vote... We didn't get it." Flash the opponent's name and McCain/Feingold disclaimer; "I'm _____ and I so approve this message."

This ad has a chance of playing in states across the country, as Democrats bring Wall Street reform to a vote today. As of this moment, Republicans are standing together, threatening to filibuster the bill. While it's hard to believe that Democrats aren't willing to give up something to get this through, the signals they're sending are that they're not willing to give up much. The New York Times reported yesterday that Democrats "had bridged internal party differences and coalesced around a plan to tighten regulation of derivatives" and had "raised the pressure on Senate Republicans" to drop the filibuster threat.

Writing for the Huffington Post, Robert Kuttner reports that the White House has rejected the idea of a bipartisan compromise.

Although Senate Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd and his sometime Republican ally Richard Shelby continued to make noises on the Sunday talk shows about a possible bipartisan deal, both President Obama and House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank have personally urged Dodd not to cut a deal with Republicans. I asked Frank point blank why Dodd would want such a deal, and he said--on the record--"I have no idea, but both President Obama and I have urged him not to."

For those of us who remember the healthcare non-debate, this can't be taken as anything other than good news. Republicans have murdered bipartisanship as a public lynch mob. Even those Republicans who'd engaged in negotiations used it as a delaying tactic, with no intention of ever voting for any bill. After months of bipartisan negotiations, the bill passed the Senate without a single GOP vote. The moral of this story: negotiating with Republicans is a waste of time -- by GOP design.

What we have now is a stand-off. And it's one that Republicans can't possibly win -- not in a political sense, anyway. That's not to say that we won't get some sort of deal after the initial procedural vote fails. But Democrats should go ahead and cut that ad now, then email it to incumbent Republicans running for reelection. You want to run on how much you hate healthcare reform? Knock yourself out -- we're going to run on this.

Someone's going to blink here and, unless they're bent on self-destruction, Republicans will blink first.


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