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 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.
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.
The only senator who spoke specifically on this cloture motion was Russ Feingold, D-Wis., who said he does not believe the bill is yet strong enough in protecting consumers.
“After 30 years of acquiescing to the wishes of Wall Street lobbyists, it is essential that Congress get it right this time, and finally enact tough reforms to prevent Wall Street from driving our economy into the ditch again. In particular, that means eliminating the risk posed to our economy by the massive financial firms that are considered ‘too big to fail,’” Feingold said. “Three weeks ago, I said that for me the test for this legislation is a simple one—whether or not it will prevent another financial crisis. And central to that test is how this bill will address ‘too big to fail.’ Right now, this bill fails that test, and for that reason I will not support ending debate on the measure.”
By a vote of 57-42, the motion to bring debate to a close was rejected. Though more voted yes than no, this particular type of vote required 60 in order to be considered passed. All but three Democrats present voted to bring debate to a close (including Harry Reid, D-Nev., who changed his vote to no to preserve his right to call the same vote again later). All but two Republicans present voted against bringing debate to a close. The end result is that the motion to bring debate to a close on a bill to overhaul the financial regulatory system failed, and debate on the measure continued.