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A Failed Vote on Breaking up Banks

May 7, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The Senate last night voted on a financial reform amendment that, although probably never having a real shot at passing, gives us a unique chance to see in the stark relief the divisions in both parties on truly reining in the "too big to fail" banks.

The amendment, a version of the SAFE Banking Act sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown [D, OH] and Ted Kaufman [D, DE], would have placed strict size caps on banks and non-bank financial companies. In practical terms, it would have forced the breaking up of some of the Wall Street corporations. Instead of consolidating like they have been doing for the past 20 years, banks like Bank of America and Chase would have been forced to sell some of their branches off to smaller regional banks over a period of three years.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders [I, VT] yesterday forced a vote on an amendment on breaking up the big banks in the Budget Committee mark-up of the 2011 budget resolution. The amendment didn't pass, but it came closer than I think even Sanders expected. It was rejected on a 12-10, bipartisan vote, which Sanders in a press release called "a strong signal of the growing momentum behind proposals to dismantle financial institutions that dominate the U.S. economy."

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Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] filed for cloture on the financial reform bill today, meaning that the Senate can move forward with a vote to begin debating on Monday. Under Senate rules, if there is an objection to a unanimous consent request to bring up a bill for floor debate, as is the case with the financial reform bill, at least 16 senators must sign and file a cloture petition on the motion to proceed to the bill. After 30 hours, the Senate can vote on whether or not to invoke cloture. The cloture vote is set for Monday, April 26 at 5:00 p.m. ET and will require a supermajority of 60 votes to pass.

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An Amendment to Break up the Big Banks

April 21, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

There has been an ongoing partisan spat in the Senate recently over whether or not the financial reform bill as prepared by Sen. Chris Dodd [D, CT] would actually end bailouts. Politifact has shown that Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell's [R, KY] statement that the bill "actually guarantees future bailouts of Wall Street banks" is false, but there is more ambiguity over whether the resolution authority provision in the bill is actually strong enough to guarantee that there will never again be bailouts of too-big-to-fail banks.

Sens. Sherrod Brown [D, OH], Ted Kaufman [D, DE], Bob Casey [D, PA] and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse [D, RI] today announced that they are proposing legislation that I think everyone can agree would end once and for all the problem of having to bailout failing banks that are too big to fail.

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