Legislation which Democrats say is designed to bring sweeping reforms to the nation’s financial industry will move forward in the U.S. Senate now as Republican opponents on Wednesday night dropped efforts to block debate on it. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, says he was mystified by the Republicans’ actions.
“They were filibustering the bill because they wanted to see some changes made,” Harkin says. “Isn’t that what the amendment process is all about? We don’t have a rule here that says they can’t offer amendments. You bring a bill up and if someone’s got an idea on how to make it better, they offer the amendment. In fact, I’ve got a couple of amendments I’m going to be supporting on the bill that I think make it stronger.”
Iowa’s other U.S. Senator, Republican Chuck Grassley, says he opposes the legislation because it would lead to more government bailouts at taxpayer expense. Harkin says that’s just not the case. “This idea it’s a taxpayer (funded) bailout is just absolutely, totally false,” Harkin says. “What it was was setting up a fund that all of these institutions had to put money into. That was that $50 billion fund. It was not anything at all paid for by taxpayers.”
Grassley also disagreed with the bill’s proposed creation of a Consumer Protection Agency, claiming it would only bring more bureaucracy. Grassley says government doesn’t need to get bigger but existing agencies need to be given broader powers to be watchdogs in the financial world. Again, Harkin disagrees.
“The existing agencies have shown that they’ve got so much on their plate that they can’t do this,” Harkin says. “I am strongly in favor of a Consumer Protection Agency in the financial industry that will protect our consumers. We need somebody that’s independent that isn’t always just sitting down with the big banks and brokerage houses, but really is looking out for the consumer.”
Republicans had blocked debate on the financial overhaul bill the past three days. Senators are now beginning what’s expected to be two weeks of votes on amendments to it.