The fight over financial regulatory reform is heating up, with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, taking center stage. After meeting with Wall Street execs last week to seek their support in this Fall's midterms, and hearing the execs' concerns about the upcoming regulatory reform debate (as first reported by Fox Business News), McConnell has come out swinging on this bill, declaring it a "bailout."

He gave a floor speech this morning to keep up the drumbeat that began earlier this week:  the Dodd bill is a "bailout."   This is a similar strategy the leader employed during the health care debate, during which the leader gave more than 100 floor speeches, sometimes one on every day of the week, hammering, hammering, hammering away at the bill.

Senior GOP staffers on the Senate Banking Committee were called together to explain to reporters exactly how, they say, a bailout can occur under the Dodd bill. In layman's terms, the bill doesn't explicitly ban taxpayer-funded bailouts. The FDIC is allowed some leeway to determine when additional funds might be required, over and above what might be doled out in a bankruptcy.

There is a $50 billion bailout fund created by the Dodd bill, but the big banks must contribute that money. Still, Republicans say the bill allows for money beyond that. When asked about this, Senate Banking Cmte member Chuck Schumer, D-NY, said, "Well, then tell Republicans to introduce an amendment to fix it. We don't want taxpayer funds going for bailouts, period."

Democrats say there's a maximum amount the FDIC can give in the bill; no taxpayer money will be expended. Republicans say the language is deliberately ambiguous.

And on and on it goes.

NOW ---- McConnell has stepped up his fight, flexing his 41-vote-strong muscles, or trying to. He's circulating a letter to his GOP colleagues seeking all 41 signatures to state to Democrats that no debate will begin unless GOP concerns are met. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, said he wants the debate to begin by the end of next week.

According to a senior GOP leadership aide, McConnell has not yet gathered all of the signatures.

That's probably because Democrats are hard at work trying to peel away a Republican or two --- targeting the New England moderates and Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN, who has been deeply involved in negotiations with BAnking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-CT.

The later two just participated in an interesting colloquy on the Senate floor, rarely seen -- here's a sampling:

CORKER: (14:30:59) There's no question some of the attacks on the order to liquidation have been over the top. On the other hand, there's no question that Treasury and -- and the FDIC created some loopholes. that's what executive branches do, because they want the flexibility to do whatever they'd like to do. I would do the same thing if I were them. But there are some things that need to be tightened up and I think we can do that in five minutes. I really do.

I know there's been discussions about this letter. the fact is I think what we're trying to do is say let's get this template done over the next couple of weeks. Let's don't slow it down.

AND

If everybody would just calm down and if everybody would quit exaggerating how bad things are, there's been a lot of cooperation. I just met with the Ranking Member. I left his office. I think there's a strong, strong, strong desire to reach a bipartisan agreement. And I hope -- i think -- I'm not blaming anybody, but I think the White House is stirring around in this, all kind of forces going on. I think the good senator from Connecticut wants a bipartisan bill that will stand the test of 14:32:35 time. I know that I want one.

DODD: (14:34:23) The minority leader has come every morning now saying that this bill perpetuates bailouts. I'm not going to allow those accusations being spread across the country when i've been told this is a partisan bill.

DODD: (14:36:40) if this had been a purely partisan, you're not allow in the room, keep you outside, we're going to write what we want to write. i would sign the letter if that 14:36:49 is the case. this is not the case in my view. i say that respectfully to my colleague.

CORKER: I didn't leave the table. never left the table. so the fact is the bill has taken a partisan bill on march the 10th. there's no denying that. 14:37:36 You wouldn't deny that and look at me with a straight face. there are some bipartisan solutions in this bill, and i grant that, and i thank you for those incliewtionz, but there's -- inclusions, but there's still work to be done. and i would say to you what republicans are trying to do is 14:37:52 let's finish that work before it gets to the floor.