A major Wall Street reform bill that seemed in trouble just a few weeks ago now seems likely to become law, perhaps in a few days.
And if it does, it will be an important addition to the record of accomplishment of a president who as recently as last fall was being mocked on “Saturday Night Live” for achieving “nothing.”
What’s more, he was helped to the 60-vote finish line on the financial regulatory reform bill by Republicans, including the man responsible for the administration’s greatest electoral humiliation so far, Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, as well as Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine.
All were among the objects of grass-roots lobbying over the Independence Day recess by groups such as the progressive coalition Americans for Financial Reform.
For instance, activists and experts gathered outside the offices of Snowe and Collins last week to urge the duo to vote yes. Supporters also used the event to thank Maine House members who supported the legislation when it passed the chamber June 30.
“All these events are thanking the members for their support of Main Street and for holding big banks accountable and urging senators in the state to finish the bill,” said AFR spokeswoman Lauren Weiner. “Thanking House members is a perfect way to show the kind of support the senators will get when they vote for Main Street.”
The coalition did similar events in Delaware, Arkansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington, Weiner said.
During the weeklong recess, AFR did work in 17 states that included sending letters to the editors, meeting with newspaper editorial boards and calling voters and patching them through to their senators. Meanwhile, AFR ally U.S. Public Interest Research Group was organizing events in another seven states, she said.
In Kansas, the group’s affiliates met with clergy and called on them to push their senators to vote for the bill.
And this week, the Iowa affiliate was planning to set up a finish line in Des Moines to urge Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to help reform complete its legislative race, Weiner said. (As of Tuesday afternoon, Grassley remained “undecided.”)
Brown made his announcement Monday.
“I’ve spent the past week reviewing the Wall Street reform bill,” Brown said in his statement announcing support for the bill.
“I appreciate the efforts to improve the bill, especially the removal of the $19 billion bank tax. As a result, it is a better bill than it was when this whole process started. While it isn’t perfect, I expect to support the bill when it comes up for a vote.”
An announcement of support by another Republican senator from New England, Snowe, soon followed.
“To ensure we avoid another financial catastrophe such as the one that plunged our nation into the worst recession since the Great Depression,” Snowe said in a statement Monday, “it is imperative that we implement an aggressive overhaul of the American financial regulatory system.”
“And this effort must include real and substantial consequences for those whose reckless actions caused the crisis in the first place while guaranteeing the transparency and accountability of taxpayer dollars. After thoroughly reviewing the 2,315-page financial regulatory reform conference bill during the July Fourth work period, I intend to support passage of the legislation when it’s brought before the Senate for consideration.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also been working the Senate hard from the other direction, targeting the Lean-Yes Quartet in hopes of persuading them to vote no. The business group encouraged its members to contact their senators and even organized a “virtual march” on Washington with about 25,000 participants.
The Chamber also provided its members with a list of lawmakers’ town hall meetings held during the recess and coordinated with its regional offices and local and state chambers.
Amanda Engstrom of the Chamber’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness said the business community is concerned that the crackdown on banks will hurt small businesses by drying up the credit market and increasing the price of banking services.
And changing loan standards could mean that new small businesses, with their scant track records and higher failure rates, won’t get the loans needed to launch and create new jobs, Engstrom said.
“Wall Street and Main Street are inexorably linked together, and what you do to one affects the other,” she said. “We’re really trying to emphasize that this should not just be an easy vote to close the chapter on how-do-we-punish Wall Street.”
“We need to remind people this has an impact on Main Street at a time when the economy is such that we shouldn’t hinder our small business further,” Engstrom continued.
And it’s a message that Chamber President Tom Donohue intends to emphasize today at the organization’s jobs summit.
Donohue will be joined by Business Roundtable President John Castellani, Sens. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Reps. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to discuss how to create jobs and increase economic growth.