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Dems on financial reform bill: 'The games are over'

By Ed Hornick, CNN
From left, Sens. Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid and Dick Durbin held a news conference on financial reform on April 22.
From left, Sens. Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid and Dick Durbin held a news conference on financial reform on April 22.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Democrats discuss financial reform bill stalled in Senate
  • Senate majority leader signals he is ready to push forward, hoping for GOP support
  • Schumer says health care debate taught Democrats to push back

Washington (CNN) -- Senate Democrats called out Republicans on Thursday for what they said was the promotion of "falsehoods" on the financial reform bill and vowed to move the bill forward.

Republican leadership has "decided the best way to stop it ... is by polluting the debate with myths and mischaracterizations," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said at a news conference after President Obama's speech on financial reform in New York.

"I'm not going to waste any more time. ... If they let us go to it, we'll be happy to start debate," Reid said. "The games are over."

The Senate's financial reform bill would set up new regulatory oversight of the financial industry's practices with the goal of preventing another Wall Street meltdown like the one in 2008 that launched the U.S. recession.

Approved by the Senate's Banking and Agricultural committees, the bill includes an "early warning" system intended to spot signs of another crisis, as well as a $50 billion liquidation fund created with money from banks and other finance industry corporations to ensure an orderly transition in closing down failing entities.

On Thursday, Reid filed a motion to end debate on the bill, setting up that vote for Monday. The expected outcome of the vote is too close to call.

Reid said Democrats are willing to work with Republicans if they are earnest about pushing the bill forward.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell shot back at Reid's claims, saying on the Senate floor, "here we go again."

"The majority leader is once again moving to a bill, even while bipartisan discussions on the content of the bill are still under way," he said, referring to the health care bill that was recently signed into law.

The Kentucky Republican criticized Democrats and the White House for "ramming" health care reform down Americans' throats.

He said it's important to take the time to get the bill right and said discussions should continue.

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"Now, I think Americans expect more of us. I think they expect us to take the time to do it right."

But Democrats say the lesson they learned from the health care debate was to push back immediately against false claims.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said Democrats let too many health care reform "lies" go unchallenged.

"On the health care bill, we allow too many lies to get out there without rebuttal because we thought they were so obviously untrue. But we've learned our lesson," he said.

His solution: "The minute these things come out the mouths of some of our Republican colleagues, we rebut them, and we rebut them again and again."

Democrats are pushing to get a reform package approved this year. The Senate is debating the motion to proceed to the financial regulations bill, but Democrats need at least one Republican vote to get it to the floor.

Democrats believe that a handful of Republicans are in play, but none has announced their intention to vote to end debate.

The House passed its version of the bill in December.

In the meantime, Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, and Chris Dodd, chairman of the Banking Committee, say they will continue negotiations over their differences in the bill.

They do so as Democratic leaders warn that the talks may be nothing more than a stalling tactic by Republicans furious that their rivals are rushing the bill to the floor just as bipartisan talks are showing signs of life.

At one point during Reid's news conference Thursday, a video was played, highlighting what Democrats see as GOP misinformation.

In the video, McConnell said the bill "allows for tax-funded bailout for Wall Street banks. It institutionalizes them. ... It provides for an endless taxpayer bailout of Wall Street banks."

Sen. Dick Durbin, the second highest-ranking Senate Democrat, denied that there is any bailout provision in the Senate's bill.

"The taxpayers don't pay for any part of this, and at the end of it, the company is gone," he said. "There's nothing to bail out."

House Minority Leader John Boehner, in responding to Obama's speech, continued to insist that the bill is a bailout.

"While the president says he wants to reform Wall Street, the bill we have in front of us will actually provide permanent bailouts for Wall Streets and enshrine 'too big to fail,' " he said.

A video of Sen. Jon Kyl was also played in which the Arizona Republican talked about how consumer protection parts of the bill would regulate dentists and even butchers.

"Once again, not true," Schumer said. "The new Consumer Protection Agency will make sure that consumers are getting financial products ... and services that will help them save money or buy a home."

CNN's Ted Barrett, Dana Bash and Tom Cohen and CNNMoney.com's Jennifer Liberto contributed to this report.

 
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