WASHINGTON – Sens. Olympia Snowe and Scott Brown pushed sweeping financial legislation to the edge of final passage Monday, both announcing they intend to support the regulatory overhaul despite initial misgivings.
Snowe of Maine and Brown of Massachusetts join Susan Collins of Maine as three crucial Republican votes for the legislation.
"While not perfect, the legislation takes necessary steps to implement meaningful regulatory reforms, create strong consumer protections and restore confidence in the American financial system," Snowe said in a statement Monday evening.
In breaking with the rest of the Republican Party, the three lawmakers appeared to give Democratic leaders the 60 votes needed to overcome procedural hurdles facing the legislation.
Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the legislation would be wrapped up this week.
"We will finish our work on this bill this week to ensure that these critical protections and accountability for Wall Street are in place as soon as possible." Reid said in a statement.
He commended the three Republicans.
"Despite the difficult political climate, these Republicans have joined Democrats to support these common-sense protections for consumers, investors and financial institutions that will help prevent another financial crisis," Reid said.
Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska kept the vote count in limbo Monday, saying he remained undecided on the legislation. Nelson voted for an earlier Senate version of the bill.
"We've got some concerns that some of the banks in Nebraska have raised," Nelson said Monday. "We also have some banks in Nebraska saying vote for it. We're trying to balance out the concerns that have been raised. There's a certain amount of uncertainty. You don't have regulations written. You don't know who's going to be the head of the consumer protection bureau."
A fourth Republican who voted for the Senate version in May, Charles Grassley of Iowa, has indicated he has reservations as well.
The legislation attempts to rein in banks, police previously unregulated markets and provide a new array of consumer protections. It aims to avoid a recurrence of the 2008 financial crisis that helped drive the country into the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Without Nelson, Democrats would have to wait for West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, who is a Democrat, to fill the vacancy created by the death of Sen. Robert Byrd. Manchin said Monday that he would fill the vacancy as early as Friday and no later than Sunday.
Manchin's appointment would be expected to vote for the legislation.
Like Snowe, Brown won concessions in the bill and said Monday that the legislation "is a better bill than it was when this whole process started."
"While it isn't perfect, I expect to support the bill when it comes up for a vote," he said in a statement. "It includes safeguards to help prevent another financial meltdown, ensures that consumers are protected and it is paid for without new taxes."