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GOP ends filibuster blocking financial reform debate

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Republicans allow vote on financial reform bill
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Obama, Democrats say reforms will prevent another meltdown
  • Republicans end filibuster on Wall Street regulation bill
  • Motions to begin debate had failed three times in 48 hours
  • Top Republicans say negotiations with Democrats have some success
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Washington (CNN) -- Republicans ended their filibuster of Wall Street reforms Wednesday when the Senate agreed without a vote to begin debate on a financial regulations bill.

The Senate approved by unanimous consent a motion to launch debate on the bill after a similar proposal failed three times in the previous 48 hours to win the necessary 60 votes to pass.

President Obama and Democratic leaders hailed the Republican shift as necessary progress toward reforms that will prevent another Wall Street meltdown like the one in 2008 that harmed the U.S. economy.

"You shouldn't have to wait another day for protection from some of the practices that got us into this mess," Obama said in Quincy, Illinois. "If we don't learn the lessons from this crisis, we doom ourselves to repeat it."

Unanimous opposition by Senate Republicans this week had blocked the three motions to begin debate on the bill.

With signs that support for the filibuster was crumbling, Republican leaders signaled Wednesday they would allow the debate to begin. Shortly after that, moderate GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine became the first Republican to announce that she would vote to launch debate on the bill to overhaul the financial regulatory system.

Earlier, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, released a statement saying closed-door negotiations with Democrats on the financial regulations reform bill had ended with agreement on some issues but others left unresolved.

"Now that those bipartisan negotiations have ended, it is my hope that the majority's avowed interest in improving this legislation on the Senate floor is genuine and the partisan gamesmanship is over," McConnell's statement said.

In a separate statement, the lead Republican negotiator on the issue, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, said that agreement had been reached on some issues but that the talks were at an impasse on others.

Shelby's statement said he personally opposed opening floor debate on the bill but he would defer to the judgment of his Republican colleagues on whether to continue the filibuster.

Republicans hold 41 of the Senate's 100 seats, which is enough to mount a filibuster. Even if debate proceeds, Republicans still can block a final vote on the bill by another filibuster.

Shelby said he had negotiated a deal on provisions that would prevent companies from growing too big to fail, as well as a process for unwinding collapsing Wall Street banks.

But, he said, he and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Connecticut, were unable to reach a deal about the powers and scope of a consumer protection regulator or the best way to regulate complex financial products currently traded in the dark.

The statements by Shelby and McConnell came several hours after the third failure by Senate Democrats to pass a motion to launch debate.

After that vote, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, said Democrats were prepared to remain in session through the night Wednesday in their effort to break the impasse.

On Tuesday, Obama had challenged Republicans to allow public debate on the reforms, telling an Iowa crowd that it's "not right" for the GOP to prevent the proposal from coming up in the Senate.

Obama dropped direct criticism of Republicans from his remarks Wednesday, which occurred just after the GOP leaders signaled an end to their filibuster.

However, Obama said he will closely watch the upcoming debate to make sure special interests don't find a way to weaken reforms.

"What I don't want is a deal made that is written by the financial industry lobbyists; we've had enough of that," Obama said.

Senate Democrats have accused their Republican counterparts of stalling momentum on the bill in an attempt to water it down.

In holding the unsuccessful votes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on opening debate, Senate Democrats sought to generate public pressure on the Republicans by raising awareness of their opposition to moving forward on the popular issue.

One moderate Republican, Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, indicated Tuesday that he would switch his vote from "no" to "yes" if negotiations on the bill between Dodd and Shelby failed to reach agreement. According to Voinovich, "a whole bunch" of other Republicans were likely to make the same decision.

Dodd and Shelby had repeatedly said they were close to a deal, with agreement on most of the issues. However, Shelby's statement Wednesday said their disagreement on a new consumer protection agency in the bill and other issues proved insurmountable.

McConnell contended Tuesday that the consumer body would extend far beyond Wall Street to infiltrate daily transactions of all Americans.

In his speech Wednesday, Obama called the proposed consumer protection provision a key part of the bill intended to help Americans avoid predatory or abusive lending practices by credit card companies, banks and mortgage brokers.

 
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