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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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Despite shaving another $22 billion off the price tag of H.R. 4213, the unemployment insurance, jobs and tax extenders bill, the Democrats this afternoon failed for the third time in three weeks to defeat a Republican filibuster. As a result, Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] is giving up and moving onto other legislative matters. "We can't pass it until we get some Republicans... It's up to them," Reid said.

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Joe Lieberman's [I-CT] controversial cybersecurity bill, the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010, was approved by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs this afternoon. Though some senators on the committee raised concerns over certain sections, today's committee action means that the bill will now move to the Senate floor.

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After consulting with lobbyists yesterday to see what it would take to win a few Republican votes, Senate Dems are back with their latest revision of the H.R. 4213, the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act. Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] has already filed cloture on the revised bill, and according to the congressional record, "a vote on cloture will occur on Friday, June 25, 2010."

Cloture is a procedural motion to overcome a filibuster that requires 60 votes to pass. According to reports, the Democrats have been within two votes of passing the cloture motion for several days now. This latest revision is designed to shore up support among Democratic and Republican moderates to win those crucial two votes. At this point, all indications are that it hasn't worked.

So what has changed in the latest revision?

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The derivatives chapter in the Senate's financial reform bill is stronger than the House's version in just about every way imaginable. Not surprisingly, convincing finical reform conference committee members to choose the House derivatives language over the Senate language has been big-bank lobbyists' top priority in the past few weeks.

The vote on derivatives will take place tomorrow, and despite a lot of centrists recently adopting the banks' position, a trio of relatively moderate House Dems -- Rep. Rosa DeLauro [D, CT-3] (pictured), Rep. Bart Stupak [D, MI-1] and Rep. Jackie Speier [D, CA-12] -- are pushing back hard. They circulated a letter today urging the Senate derivatives language to be kept in tact and implying that any actions by the conference committee to weaken the language could cost Democratic votes from the left. They are asking for Democratic House colleagues to sign on.

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Congress Links

June 23, 2010 - by Moshe Bildner

  • Democratic leaders are asking Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D - AR) to "water down" her provision in the Senate FinReg  bill that would ban banks from receiving government subsidies for their profitable - but risky - derivatives trading operations. Lincoln is refusing. (New York Times)
  • Sen. Lincoln is also pushing a change in the bill that would exempt an Arkansas bank owned by the Walton family (of Wal-Mart fame) from certain capital holding requirements. (Wall Street Journal)
  • House, Senate negotiators agree to establish a consumer protection bureau housed in the Fed as part of the new financial regulation bill. (Businessweek)
  • House Democrats, nervous about deficit, propose $7 billion in budget cuts for next year. (AP)
  • Deficit worries have also driven cuts in the Senate's stalled unemployment relief bill, but massive tax breaks remain untouched. (The LA Times)
  • The House subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties will hold hearings on Thursday to examine "location-based mobile services". Concerns over possible privacy violations are expected to be the main focus of the hearings. (Washington Post)
  • Rep. Joe Barton (R - TX-06) tweeted an article supporting his infamous "shakedown" accusation, the tweet was quickly retracted by Barton's spokesman.  (Washington Post)
  • Senate is expected to quickly confirm Petraeus to be the new to commander in Afghanistan.(Politico)
  • Senate and House feud over medicare cuts. (Politico)
  • Iran prepares for and reacts to Congress' sanctions on Iran's fuel exports. (WashingtonPost)
  • Highlighting Congress' oil spill legislation, The Political Climate has used OpenCongress links to explain current bills.
  • House Democrats prepare to draft legislation in order to tighten oil spill practices. (Reuters)

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As I've been writing about on this blog for weeks, Senate Democrats are trying to pass a bill (H.R. 4213) combining an unemployment insurance extension, stimulative tax credits, state aid for Medicaid, and tax hikes on hedge funds and oil companies. They need at least two Republican votes in order to break a filibuster, but, so far, no Republicans are going along with them. CongressDaily ($) reports this morning that the Dems are changing up their strategy. Rather than trying to strike a deal with the GOP, they are going to work directly with the infamous fourth branch of government -- corporate lobbyists:

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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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Since late May, the Senate has been stymied by a piece of must-pass legislation, H.R. 4213, that combines a 6-month unemployment insurance extension, billions in tax credits designed to protect jobs, billions in aid for states struggling to pay for Medicaid, and tax hikes on wealthy individuals and corporations. The bill, which has been pared down several times already, costs $55 billion, which failed roll call after failed roll call has shown to be just too much for Senate moderates and conservatives to swallow this close to the midterms.

But the Democrats are committed to passing the unemployment insurance extension, and they are once again paring down the bill to round up support among moderates and overcome a Republican-led filibuster. According to CQ Politics, here's what they are looking at now for savings:

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Last Tuesday, House Democrats announced that they had made progress in passing HR 5175, the DISCLOSE Act by rewriting the bill to exclude several organizations from its strict disclosure provisions. Among other things, the original bill would have required public organizations to disclose a list of any contributors who have donated more than $600,  as well as to feature a list of their top donors on all political advertisements within 90 days of an election. Additionally, the bill would prohibit government contractors and foreign organizations from funding political advertisements.

Last Tuesday's amendment, however, offered exclusions from the bill's disclosure requirements to organizations meeting oddly specific criteria.

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Latest on the Unemployment/Tax Extenders Bill

June 21, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

This from subscription-only CongressDaily is at least not bad news for those of you hoping that the Senate will pass legislation extending the unemployment insurance filing deadline this week: "Senate Democrats are back at the drawing board, working again this week to pass a version of a bill extending tax breaks and unemployment benefits and other programs after they lost cloture votes on two versions last week. [...] Democrats still want to extend unemployment benefits, which have been expiring for tens of thousands of Americans since the start of the month. But aides said it is too soon to say what else will be included in the package offered this week."

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The Brown Infidelity

June 21, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA] has taken more money from the financial industry recently than 95% of the Senate despite having no official positions of power and not even being a member of the Banking Committee with jurisdiction over financial reform legislation. In May, Sen. Brown gave Democrats the 60th votes they needed to break a Republican filibuster of the financial reform bill. But now as the bill is going through the conference committee, he's using his leverage as a crucial swing vote to fight for carve outs that would benefit the financial companies who have been funding him.

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The Week Ahead

June 21, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

All eyes this week will be on the financial reform conference committee, which is scheduled to wrap up their negotiations by Thursday, and the Senate, which has been struggling for weeks to pass an unemployment insurance and tax extenders bill. The conference committee still has a couple of the most contentious issues facing it for debate this week, including Sen. Blanche Lincoln's [D, AR] "no bailouts for derivatives" language and Sen. Dick Durbin's [D, IL] amendment to give the Federal Reserve regulatory authority over debit card swap fees. In the full Senate, Democrats will be searching for some sort of solution to the stalled unemployment bill.

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For those willing to step into the weeds and follow what the financial reform conference committee is going to do next week on derivatives reform, this from Zach Carter at Alternet is an important addition to what we should be paying attention to:

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Senate Democrats tried once again last night to overcome a budget point of order against their unemployment insurance/tax extenders bill, this time on a pared-down version, and failed 56-40. Sixty votes were needed. Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE] and Sen. Joe Lieberman [I, CT] joined all Republicans in voting down the bill.

The path forward from here is unclear to say the least. Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] tried after the failing vote to pass each piece of the bill -- the unemployment benefits, the doc-fix, the Medicaid money -- as stand-alone measures by unanimous consent. But, each time, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell [R, KY] objected, citing deficit concerns. McConnell then offered to pass by unanimous consent a version of the bill that would be paid for with stimulus funds, but Reid objected to that.

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