Reflecting the mass anger at Wall Street, President Obama has told congressional leaders that he will not accept a weak finance reform bill simply in the name of “bipartisan accomplishment,” according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
There are reports, meanwhile, that Republicans such as Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, after having spent months working on crafting a bill as a member of the Senate’s banking committee, may break ranks with their party if it tries to filibuster reform.
The national outcry for steps to curb Wall Street has so emboldened Democrats that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is prepared to bring the banking committee bill to the floor with no concessions to Republicans and essentially dare them to vote against the measure, according to numerous sources on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., banking committee chair, took to the floor of the Senate yesterday and blasted Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other right-wing Republicans for “falsely claiming that the bill would create more bailouts.”
Dodd told the Senate that the GOP, out of desperation, had “turned to Frank Luntz, their political strategist and here is what Mr. Luntz came up with, and I quote: ‘The single best way to kill any legislation is to link it to the Big Bank Bailout.'”
“It’s a naked political strategy,” Dodd declared, warning, “And if it succeeds and another crisis sinks the American economy, then the next recession and all of the damage it will bring to middle class families will have happened for the sake of a talking point.”
McConnell on Tuesday was backed into a corner and unable to answer direct questions from reporters about his fundraising efforts on Wall Street. He refused to discuss the issue and said his opposition to financial reform was based “not on contributions from Wall Street but rather on concerns from community banks in Kentucky.”
A review of government records on campaign contributions shows that McConnell takes more money from Wall Street than any other sector.
Some key Senate Republicans, embarrassed by their leader’s stand against finance reform, have been distancing themselves from him all week.
“I did not hear Senator McConnell’s speech on the floor,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. “I didn’t hear his characterization,” Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, told the press. “I haven’t read his comments,” said Sen. Corker.
Progressives note that Republicans are in an unenviable bind on the issue – a bind much tighter than the one they were in on health care reform. President Obama has made effective use of his bully pulpit on the issue, addressing himself to the wide anger among the public over Wall Street’s profit rampage. If GOP senators cave in to the momentum for reform, they risk alienating the right-wing base that they themselves revved up in the first place. If they hold out against reform, the public will see them as fronting for Wall Street.
Labor and its allies, meanwhile, continue to turn up the heat on Congress.
The AFL-CIO has announced that unions will take the battle directly to Wall Street April 29 with a mass march and rally for finance reform. The unions intend too make the point that the big banks were responsible for the loss of 11 million jobs in America and they should be made to pay to help create the new jobs needed.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said that, in addition to the reform measures emerging from Congress, there should be a financial transactions tax to raise money for massive federally funded jobs programs.
“Working people are going to tell the banks on the 29th that we are not their ATMs,” Trumka said.
Photo: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., gets big money from Wall Street. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)