Senate Bank Reform Bill One Vote Short

The fate of the Wall Street reform bill is up in the air after the death of Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia. The bill is a single confirmed vote short of the 60 votes needed to get past a threatened filibuster by Senate Republicans. From day one, the Bankster team has supported the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and that is still one of the strongest pieces of the bill. It is a great time to send off the last emails to Senators telling them to put a new cop on the block in the form of a CFPB.

Tell Us What You Think of the Bill

We want to hear from you about what you think of the bill, and what grade you would give it if you were a kindergarten teacher grading Congress on its performance. Conceptually, the bill breaks down into three main parts.

Wall Street Reform Bill Yields Big Win for Little Countries

You know that Wall Street reform bill pending in the Senate? Some last minute insertions add up to a surprisingly big win for the developing world.

Oil Companies Required to Detail the Dough Paid to Foreign Governments

First, kudos to Senators Dick Lugar (R-Indiana) and Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) for inserting strong provisions that require extractive companies (oil, natural gas, etc.) to detail in their annual Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings the payments they make to foreign governments.

One would think that oil-rich and mineral-rich countries would be, well, rich. Big international firms move in to extract these resources and pay royalties, fees, taxes, bonuses and other monies to national governments. Unfortunately, too frequently this money is put to work lining the pockets of dictators and warlords, rather than building schools or health clinics.

Wall Street Reform Bill Could Be a Big Win for the Farm Belt

Everyone in America remembers the summer of 2008 when gas prices rose to over $4.00 a gallon. The puzzling price spike caused hardship for many Americans, but it had a disproportionate impact on farmers given that energy costs are one of farmers' biggest costs of doing business. A repeat of this scenario not only threatens consumer pocketbooks and farm livelihoods, but could be a serious setback to an already slow economic recovery.

That possibility just became much more remote due to some last-minute maneuvers involving the Wall Street reform bill slated to be voted on in Congress this week. The derivatives chapter of the bill specifically cracks down on the energy and food commodity speculation that elevates the cost of farming and socks it to consumers.

Derivatives Reform Suffers Midnight Mangling

The last day was a long one in the House-Senate conference committee on financial reform. The conferees had been at it since 9:00 a.m. and were rumpled and weary. Big bank lobbyists packed the conference room and trailed out into the hallways. As the clocked ticked into the wee hours, the chances for meaningful financial reform dimmed. At issue was the strong and controversial crack-down on derivatives trading authored by Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas).

Last Call on Financial Reform!

Today, U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas) was dragged into a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts). It was a pile-on to ask her to agree to weaken her strong derivatives reforms to accommodate Wall Street. Lincoln made it clear she was not pleased with the pressure. "There are some that are not as interested in being as aggressive in making sure that the possibilities of this financial crisis don’t happen again,” the Arkansas Democrat told Roll Call after the meeting. The issue of derivatives will be taken up tomorrow in the House-Senate Conference Committee which is pounding out the difference between the two bills. Will they adopt the Senate version (which covers 90% of derivatives, with a narrow exemption for legitimate end-users like municipal gas companies) or the House version (which is riddled with loopholes and covers only 60% of derivatives trading)?

Swap 'Till You Drop

As the fight on Capitol Hill for financial reform enters its final stages, it is worth asking what will be done to protect states and localities from the Wall Street con. On Thursday, the House-Senate conference committee on financial reform will take up the controversial section of the bill dealing with derivatives reform. Not a local issue right? Wrong. Service Employees International Union's (SEIU) Big Banks campaign has uncovered about 71 states and localities which have bought into dangerous derivatives and swaps deals to finance local priorities.

This information was not easy to uncover, and the total number of munis holding these little ticking time bombs is not known. For the big banks, these deals are off book and off record, and politicians of course don't like to brag about getting swindled. It is only when these deal explode and there is a huge shortfall that the public begins to be aware. Sometimes even that is not enough, and some districts are in denial about the problems posed by their investment portfolio.

Do You Like to Whip It?

The long awaited House-Senate Financial Reform Conference Committee got underway this week. Thanks to the efforts of Public Citizen, Campaign for America's Future, CMD and others, these committee meetings will be live on C-Span 3, and all amendments will be made available in advance. At BanksterUSA we are working hard to make sure that the strong derivatives language currently in the Senate version of the bill is not weakened (Sec. 716 authored by Senator Blanche Lincoln, D-Arkansas). We are keeping a whip count on the conferees and we could use your help! A whip count helps us pool intelligence on what the members are saying to their constituents. If you make a call you can post a comment to our whip list letting us know what you heard. It is grassroots activism at its best.

Blanche Lincoln's "Cross of Gold" Moment

To the surprise of many, Blanche Lincoln won her Arkansas Senate runoff. She did so as a modern-day William Jennings Bryan standing up for farmers and pushing a strong Wall Street reform proposal to help farmers and protect taxpayers. It is worth reviewing the promises made on the campaign trail and the lessons the race holds for candidates in 2010.

In a conservative state, Lincoln ran hard on her record as Agriculture Committee chair, her critical health care vote and on her strong proposal to crack down on Wall Street derivatives trading. "I am Blanche Lincoln and I grew up in an Arkansas family where I was taught to solve problems ... that's why I cast the deciding vote to pass health care reform ... And it's why I am taking on Wall Street with the toughest reform bill of anyone in either party ... and it's going to pass," she reassures with a nod. This is a winning message in a tight race.

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