Although no votes are scheduled in the House and Senate today, there was breaking news early this morning in the negotiations in the Financial Services conference. CNN Money reports:
After a grueling 20-hour session, lawmakers early Friday finished melding the House and Senate Wall Street reform bills, bringing Congress closer to passing the most sweeping changes to the financial system since the New Deal.
They finished just after 5 a.m. this morning and Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) bragged to the Washington Post that "It's a great moment. I'm proud to have been here. No one will know until this is actually in place how it works. But we believe we've done something that has been needed for a long time. It took a crisis to bring us to the point where we could actually get this job done." Dodd is the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and he admits that nobody knows how the bill works.
Congressional observers will be watching next week to see if the House and Senate take a run at passing this partisan legislation. All Democrats voted for the conference report and all Republicans voted against it. Before the final vote, the bill was renamed the "Dodd-Frank Bill" to honor the lawmakers who have set up permanent bailout authority for Wall Street and to help Senator Dodd secure his next job interpreting this complex legislation for his pals on Wall Street.
CNN Money further reports that
Despite promises of an open negotiating process, many of the toughest deals were reached in private conversations among Democrats, as well as White House and Treasury officials, outside the Senate meeting room session that was being broadcast on C-SPAN.
So much for transparency. This Congress is the most secretive in recent memory. The American people have a right to know what is going on in this conference committee, yet they are again being shut out of the process. Furthermore, if the guys in the room don't know what they just passed in secret, how will the American people understand what is in this bill before the House and Senate pass it?
Guess who was allowed in the room to negotiate this bill while the American people were shut out --Lobbyists.
Since January 2009, financial services firms have spent nearly $600 million and hired hundreds of lobbyists to influence legislation including financial reform, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. This week, dozens of them lined the Senate office building meeting room and hallway, where they often pulled staffers and lawmakers aside.
The bottom line is that this bill still puts the taxpayer on the hook for bad decisions on Wall Street. We don't know what secret deals lobbyists and lawmakers cut to get this bill passed. This process smells as bad as this bill. Conservatives need to watch Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to see if they try to ram this bill through Congress next week and to the President's desk before the American people get a chance to understand this radical regulatory regime for financial services firms.