Financial Industry Reform -- All Fingerpointing, Echoes of Health Care Fight

Boy – I have not been covering financial regulatory reform long, but it has eerie undertones of health care reform.

Republicans are raging that the White House made Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-CT, & other Dems pull away from the negotiating table.

Democrats are saying that Republicans don't want anything to pass. They didn't want health care reform; they just want to say 'no'.

Sen. Judd Gregg, R-NH, a key negotiator, said “on the four big issues, we were more than 80% done, more than 80%!”

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is scheduled to meet with the senator later today, and it sounds like Gregg is ready to give the young administration official quite an earful.

“I want to ask them what they’re up to. Clearly, they’ve decided on a populist path that’s not helpful to our country,” Gregg told reporters.

When asked if any Republican would break rank and join Democrats, Gregg said, “Why would we do that when we’re not in the (negotiating) room?”

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-AL, agreed with Gregg --- said he’s certain Republicans will hang together to get what they want out of this bill, to ensure that "too big to fail" institutions can no longer be bailed out by the taxpayers.

Democrats provide a fund, to which the biggest banks will have to contribute, in order to have a $50 billion reserve for such rescues.  Republicans balk at this.  One senior GOP aide said any fund is unacceptable; banks should just be allowed to fail.

Gregg says he smells 2010 campaign politics, “The only thing I can assume is that they’ve (White House) decided to make this a political issue.”

Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, says Dems have now decided to go for “a 60 vote bill, not an 80 vote bill.”

Dodd: "Oh, wait, you mean the head of the Republican campaign committee, that John Cornyn? Give me a break."

Dodd was in talks with Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee a month ago, but those talks abruptly ended, as the two were nearing the finish line.  Corker accused the White House of intervening to stop the talks, of wanting a political issue.  Dodd said the election year clock was already ticking --that Republicans were wanting an issue.  Today - he said, “The reason the talks broke down, there were no votes on the other side. I mean, you’ve got to bring votes.”

Asked what he’ll do if Republicans stand unanimously against his bill, “I don’t believe that will happen.” He said, “There’s simply too much at stake.”

Some Democratic aides have suggested that the leader might just bring the bill to the floor very soon, as early as next week, and let the chips fall where they may.  Republicans will have to decide if they're going to hang together, and GOP sources say their leader, Mitch McConnell, R-KY, is asking just that -- hang together until Republicans get what they want in this bill.

And Republicans have the numbers now to effectively mount a filibuster. Democrats have no budgetary tactics available to them such as they used with health care reform, that circumvented the filibuster.

So, stay tuned...