Top Senate Democrats dumped a bucket of cold water on the emerging Republican push for bipartisanship on financial reform, with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) accusing Republicans of lying to the American people.
The third-ranking Democrat was the most outspoken opponent of Republican floor tactics, and went so far as to say that Republicans were introducing Orwellian "1984 Double-Think" in trying to "scare the average American" about the Democratic proposals.
"Bottom line, on the health care bill we allowed too many lies to get out there without rebuttal because we thought they were so obviously untrue, but we've learned our lesson," Schumer said. "And the minute these things come out of the mouths of some of Republican colleagues, we rebut them. And we rebut them again and again. Fortunately, these lies are not taking hold."
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Schumer stood before reporters as clips of GOP leaders played on a big screen television. One clip showed Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) repeatedly saying that the pending reform legislation would be a perpetual taxpayer bailout of Wall Street. Another showed Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)—who at one point was the GOP's chief negotiator on the bill—pleading on the floor that senators "act like adults" and sincerely debate reform.
Reid was pressed by reporters whether he agreed with Schumer that McConnell was deliberately lying in constructing his case against regulatory reform. The majority leader would not respond directly.
"There is no question in my mind that the statements we've just seen here are untrue," Reid said.
The Democrats' presentation was a stark contrast to what Republicans have been saying over the past 48 hours about the bipartisan trajectory of the legislation. Reid, however, is still confident that negotiations between Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and the committee’s top Republican, Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), could lead to a breakthrough.
"You saw how hard we tried on health care reform to get something done. What we have done on financial reform was just as energetic as what we did on health care," Reid said. "This is very simple: If they're willing to go forward with reform, that's what we'll do. But we're not going to waste any more time of the American people until they come up with some agreement."