Reid seeks to fast-track financial overhaul bill

By Brady Dennis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 10, 2010

The tourists had gone. His colleagues had cleared out.

But Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) remained on the deserted Senate floor last Tuesday evening, looking sullen. The Senate had just approved July 9, 2010, as "Collector Car Appreciation Day." What it had not done for days was make headway on a 1,400-page bill to overhaul the nation's financial regulations.

"We have had a big day in the Senate," Reid said, his voice oozing sarcasm. "Because of my Republican friends, we have been able to accomplish almost nothing -- not quite, but almost nothing."

Reid said that he loved old cars but that honoring them didn't amount to a solid day's work for the nation's top lawmakers.

"Collector Car Appreciation Day. Collector Car Appreciation Day," he said. "While people out there are looking for jobs, trying to save their homes, we are doing what the Republicans let us do: Collector Car Appreciation Day. That is the extent of our work because the Republicans have objected to everything we have tried to do on trying to reform Wall Street."

While his frustration seemed genuine, Reid's scolding in the empty chamber was part political theater, aimed at speeding up a top policy priority for President Obama. His remarks presaged a week in which the Senate moved forward on the landmark legislation in brief spurts of action during long periods of procedural delays and partisan bickering.

Republicans have warned against pushing ahead too quickly with the far-reaching legislation, arguing that such haste could lead to unintended consequences that harm the very people that lawmakers are trying to help.

"Remember, this affects all of our economy -- everything," Sen. Richard C. Shelby (Ala.), the main Republican negotiator on the bill, said on the Senate floor. "We are making progress. We might not be making progress as quickly as some people would like."

Even House members are weighing in on the Senate process, with Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) urging lawmakers to give the public 30 days to review the amended version of the financial overhaul bill before a final vote.

That familiar push and pull -- go faster! slow down! -- undoubtedly will ramp up again this week, as the Senate is scheduled to continue voting Tuesday on proposed changes to the legislation.

Since formal debate on the bill began almost two weeks ago, after Republicans repeatedly blocked its progress to the Senate floor, lawmakers have managed to vote on only a smattering of more than 175 proposed amendments.

That said, the two parties have dealt with some of the most contentious topics.

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