This vote was on whether to bring debate to a close on a bill that aims to close gaps in financial regulations, strengthen oversight of consumer lending and more closely oversee financial derivatives. Derivatives are, in essence, very complex financial contracts that businesses use as a hedge against large changes in the price of some commodities such as gasoline, but that have also become popular with speculators. Speculation in derivatives, relatively unhampered by regulation, is often blamed for partially contributing to the financial meltdown in 2008.
Republicans had threatened to hold up the bill’s consideration indefinitely with a filibuster, causing Senate Majority Harry Reid, D-Nev., to file what is known as a “cloture motion,” which, in essence, is a vote on bringing debate on a bill or amendment to a close, which is what this vote was on. If the Senate votes to “invoke cloture” – or bring debate to a close – then lawmakers must either hold a vote on the legislation, amendment or motion in question, or move on to other business. This type of motion is most often called on contentious legislation where the leadership is concerned that consideration could be held up indefinitely by a handful of senators. A previous cloture motion on this measure was defeated (see vote 158).
President Obama has made this Wall Street overhaul one of his top priorities. Democrats say the bill would help prevent the kinds of activities that contributed to the 2008 financial collapse, but Republicans argue that in fact the bill would just open the door to more financial malfeasance.
Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said it is time to bring debate on the measure to a close and begin bringing more accountability to Wall Street.
“This is an opportunity, with a bipartisan amendment, to help Main Street and small businesses; an opportunity to create 40,000 jobs; an opportunity to do it without cost to the taxpayers; an opportunity to lend to Main Street because big banks are not doing it,” Menendez said. “We all lament the lack of job growth. We all lament the lack of access to capital. This would be a tremendous opportunity to do that.”
Mike Johanns, R-Neb., said debate on the bill shouldn’t be brought to a close because the bill is not true reform.
“Instead, this bill pays little regard to its massive government expansion or host of unintended consequences. In addition, it ignores some of the major causes of the last crisis. Proponents simply say reforming Fannie and Freddie will have to wait for another day. And in a twist of irony, it turns out that supporters of this bill are the Wall Street giants themselves such as Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. Yet, proponents of the bill are attempting to paint those opposed to the bill as attempting to protect Wall Street,” Johanns said.
By a vote of 60-40, the motion to bring debate to a close was agreed to. All but two Democrats present voted to bring debate to a close. All but three Republicans present voted against bringing debate to a close. The end result is that debate on the measure was brought to a close, and the Senate proceeded to a vote on final passage of a bill aimed at strengthening protections for consumer financial services. (A prior cloture vote failed; this vote succeeded because Arlen Specter, D-Pa., was present to vote unlike the prior time, and because Scott Brown, R-Mass., changed his previous no vote to yes.)