Thursday, April 22, 2010

man-up moment in the senate...,

Video - Sen. Blanche Lincoln driving derivatives transparency.

NYTimes | This was Wednesday at the Senate Agriculture Committee, which was considering the regulation of derivatives. These are extremely complicated financial instruments, and they are under the control of the agriculture committee because, really, when you get right down to it, everything is a crop.

“Members of this committee check their partisan politics at the door,” boasted the chairwoman, Blanche Lincoln, a Democrat of Arkansas. Then, in between compliments, the members approved Lincoln’s bill on derivatives in a series of party-line votes.

Except for Charles Grassley, a Republican of Iowa, who sided with Lincoln. Truly, this was a day for the record books. Somebody finally got a Republican to vote for something.

And perhaps a sign of things to come. As President Obama prepared to make his big financial reform speech near Wall Street on Thursday, the G.O.P. seemed increasingly eager to find a way to work this one out.

“We probably generally agree on 90 percent,” said the agriculture committee’s ranking minority member, Saxby (“I golf, therefore I am”) Chambliss. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, took credit for forcing bipartisan negotiations with his innovative threat-of-a-filibuster tactic. Chris Dodd, the chairman of the banking committee who has been negotiating with the Republicans for months, said it was like a rooster taking credit for the sunrise.

The Republican leadership originally seemed to believe that financial reform could be a replay of health care reform, with a political payoff for total obstruction. They’re discovering that the only real similarity is that both are almost impossible to explain. People love their doctors, but they tend to hate their bankers. Nobody is going to scare voters by predicting that if the Democratic bill passes, they may not be able to keep seeing the same hedge fund manager.

It’s a sign of the shift that Blanche Lincoln has gone to the front of the populist pack. She was one of the weakest reeds on the Democratic side of the health care reform debate. Before that, she was obsessed with trying to cut the estate tax. Before that — well, let’s be frank. We have no idea what she was up to.

Given her record, people had expected a weak, boring package from her committee. But Lincoln came up with rules that were tougher than anyone had expected, requiring derivatives to be traded on public exchanges so investors could compare prices. The banks hate this idea, possibly because it will drive down their profits.

For sure because it will drive down their profits.


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