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SOPA Goes Through Staged Compromise, Still Censorship

December 14, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The notorious internet censorship bill known as SOPA is going to mark-up in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, and ahead of the meeting the committee chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith [R, TX], has pulled a neat little trick. Smith has come out with a manager's amendment that eliminates the most insanely unconstitutional elements of the bill, leaving behind an expansive censorship system for the government and the entertainment industry that is meant to seem reasonable by contrast.

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Who Writes the Bills Anyways?

December 2, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Ahead of the December 15 Judiciary Committee markup, the corporate sponsors of the SOPA web censorship bill are making some last minute tweaks to the legislative language:

The Motion Picture Association of America is willing to change some of the language to tone-down the controversial, much-maligned Stop Online Piracy Act that it supports, according to a report in the New York Times late Wednesday.

MPAA exec Michael O'Leary said in an afternoon press call that the agency “will come forward with language that will address some of the legitimate concerns,” of those opposed to the bill, including Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Zynga and myriad other Web companies and advocacy groups.

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Credit Card Companies Find Their Loophole

September 8, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The big credit card reform bill (H.R.627) that was passed by Congress and signed into law last year by President Obama was designed to end absuses and deceptive practices in the consumer credit market. It did not apply to teh business credit card market. However, there's nothing stopping credit card companies from marketing their business cards to individuals. After all, anybody can be a sole proprietorship, and it's up to the card comapnies to decide who qualifies. According to USA Today this is exactly the loophole card companies are using to dodge the new consumer protections:

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This probably won't come as a surprise to many of you, but in the 383,013-word, 2,253-page Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, Congress and the President seems to have enacted a provision that, according to a cadre of government transparency groups, "has the potential to severely hinder the public’s ability to access critical information related to the oversight activities of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), thereby undermining the bill’s overarching goals of more transparency and accountability."

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UPDATE: Senate Passes Financial Reform

July 15, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

UPDATE: The bill has officially been passed. It now gets sent to President Obama, who is expected to sign it into law this afternoon. Original post below...

As expected, the Senate this afternoon voted 60-38 to end debate on the landmark Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protections Act. The vote on final passage of the bill, whiconly requires a simply majority of 51 "ayes," is expected later this afternoon.

 

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The conference committee worked through the night until 6 a.m. this morning to finalize their financial reform bill and, in particular, its critical language regulating the huge and risky over-the-counter derivatives market. I stayed awake until about 3:00 a.m., following along to the extent possible on C-Span and providing updates on Twitter, but I was asleep before any good info or analysis was really available. Now that we have some day-after reporting on what happened in those delirious early morning hours, after all but a handful of people had turned off C-Span, here's what it looks like went down.

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Congress Moving on Tough Iran Sanctions Bill

June 23, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

With everything going on right now, you probably haven't heard that Congress is getting very close to passing tough new economic sanctions on Iran. The sanctions bill, known as the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010", passed both chambers earlier this year with wide bipartisan margins and the conference report is on the House schedule for possible consideration later this week. Laura Grossman at Frum Forum says the conference report came back from committee even tougher than the either of the versions that went in:

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Sen. Blanche Lincoln's [D, AR] surprise primary win Tuesday has breathed new life into her financial reform provision to ban banks from getting government assistance for their derivatives and swap trading activities.

The provision, known as Sec. 716, is going to be at the center of the financial reform conference committee that starts today (live feed). It has generally been talked about as forcing banks to "spin off" their derivatives trading activities into separate entities, but that description makes it sound more aggressive than it actually is. This isn't a "break up the banks" provision. The new derivatives entity would still be an affiliate under the same parent company as the bank they were spun off from.

The real effect of Sec. 716 would be to put a firewall between regular commercial banking activities and risky derivatives trading, with banks continuing to have access to government assistance via FDIC insurance and the Fed's discount window on the commercial banking side, but without access to any government assistance for derivatives activities. The idea is to make sure taxpayers aren't liable for banks' risky derivatives trades when they go bad.

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Update on the FinReg Conference

June 9, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The financial reform conference committee kicks off tomorrow. This is where negotiators from the Senate and the House meet to iron out the differences between their versions of the bill and create a final text to be voted on one more time by both chambers.

Though the two versions of the bill are broadly similar (House version, Senate version), when looked at more closely there are dozens of hugely important details that will need to be resolved. For example, will the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency be independent, or will it be housed at the Fed and subject to Fed vetoes? Will there be a pre-funded orderly liquidation fund, or will the funds necessary for liquidating failing big banks be put up by the federal government when the time comes? Will banks be allowed to continue getting government backing for their derivatives trades, or will they be required to spin their derivatives activites off into separate entities without access to the Fed's discount window and FDIC guarantees? 

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FinReg Conferees and Finance Industry Cash

May 26, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The Senate has selected their conferees to meet with the House on ironing out the differences between the two chambers' financial reform bills. It's a pretty standard list including members of the Banking and Agriculture Committees that had jurisdiction over the bill as it moved through the Senate. But, since the Senate's conferees have all been influential players on the issue, it means that they are bringing an unusually large amount of financial industry donations to the negotiating table.

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Dems Win Big Financial Reform Vote

May 20, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Having won over Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA] and having Sen. Arlen Specter [D, PA] back in the chamber to place his vote, the Democrats today found 60 votes and passed cloture on their financial reform bill. That means that a final vote on the bill requiring a simple majority of 51 votes must take place within the next 30 hours.

The bill, called the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010, attempts to fix regulations of derivatives, create new consumer protections for financial products, and set up an orderly liquidation process for winding down failing systemically risky financial institutions to avoid future bailouts, and much more. A summary of the bill as filed (without the dozens of floor amendments that were added) can be found here (pdf).

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Dems Fail to Get Cloture on Financial Reform

May 19, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

After calling off the 2 p.m. vote as originally scheduled and huddling in an emergency meeting, the Democrats came back this afternoon and tried to pass the cloture motion to wrap up the financial reform debate, but failed. The Senate Dem leadership held the vote open for over an hour to twist arms and try to flip some votes in their favor, but in the end the tally was 57-42. Sixty votes were needed to approve the motion.

Sen. Susan Collins [R, ME] and Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME] joined with most Democrats in favor of the motion. But Sen. Maria Cantwell [D, WA] and Sen. Russ Feingold [D, WI] voted "no" because they weren't allowed a vote on their amendment to reinstate a Depression-era rule (Glass-Steagall) requiring commercial banks and investment banks to remain separate. Looks like the Dem leadership will have to let progressives vote on their amendments if they want to wrap up the financial reform debate and move towards a final vote on passage.

So the debate goes on. Amendments will continue to be voted on. Expect another cloture vote tomorrow and each day until it passes. It's probably going to take at least a vote on the Cantwell/Feingold/McCain Glass-Steagall amendmentfor the Dems to get there.

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Remember when everyone was expecting Sen. Blanche Lincoln [D, AR] to use her position as Chair of the Ag Committee to insert a weak, loophole-ridden derivatives section in the financial reform bill, but then she surprised everyone by proposing something that was tougher than anything Congress had even considered considering? Well there's  a rumor floating around that Lincoln only proposed such a tough derivatives section in order to boost her liberal/anti-Wall Street cred and help her in a tough primary, and that after the primary is over she'll agree to gut her proposal and give Wall Street many of the concessions they want.

Well, her primary is today, and, like clockwork, reports are out that Lincoln is in private talks to change her derivatives language.

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As expected, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV]has filed for cloture on the financial reform bill, setting up the possibility of a Wednesday vote on ending the debate and forcing an up-or-down vote on passage.

For financial reform advocates, this is mixed news. On the one hand, the bill that Reid is filing cloture on is stronger than what anyone had really expected the Senate to produce. Blanche Lincoln's tough derivatives language is still mostly in tact, strengthening amendments regarding debit fees, ratings agencies and auditing the Fed have been adopted, and every attempt to weaken the bill so far has been beaten back. On the other hand, some of the most important strengthening amendments haven't been voted on yet and may not get voted on if cloture is approved on Wednesday.

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FinReg Update -- What's Happened, What's Next

May 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The votes have really been rolling in on the financial reform bill in the Senate. So far, there have been 20 roll call votes on the bill -- 4 on ending the initial Republican filibuster of beginning the debate and 16 since on amendments. Of those 16 amendment votes, 9 have been approved and added to the bill. Additionally, six amendments have been adopted without roll calls by voice votes.

Click through to get all the info on the latest amendments adopted and what we can expect to be up for votes next.

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