Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is still on the fence when it comes to the massive financial industry reform bill that may go to a vote within days. Two fellow Republicans announced Monday they’d support the measure, which should give Democrats the 60 votes needed to get the legislation passed. Early on, Grassley said he’d back many major components of the bill, but now isn’t so sure.
“I haven’t decided yet,” Grassley says. “I’m still going through it. It’s a 2,000-page document and there’s some good and some bad. There’s some changes made in the conference. They’ve changed it so much that maybe I’d have to vote otherwise but I have not made my mind up yet.” Grassley knows the deadline is looming as a vote may come by the end of this week.
“Earlier, I thought that I would have my mind made up but I haven’t finished studying it yet,” Grassley says. “Quite frankly, I don’t know whether we’re going to have a vote before next week, until a new senator’s appointed from West Virginia.” That appointment is to fill the seat left vacant by the death last month of Robert Byrd. One of Grassley’s primary objections to the financial reform bill happened during the conference committee meetings between the House and Senate.
The panel had an 18-billion dollar hole to fill with what are called offsets, and he says they filled the hole with leftover TARP money from the federal bailout. “We should be using TARP to pay down the federal debt because when that was voted (on) two years ago, the idea was that we would help out banks to get back on their feet, when they paid the money back, it’d go into the Treasury to pay down the national debt,” Grassley says. “I don’t think it’s right to spend it when it was meant to not be spent, just a loan to the banks.”
Grassley says he also opposes how the bill raises fees on FDIC-insured savings accounts. He also wants tighter restrictions on credit agencies, which essentially get to choose their own interest rates. Grassley says proposed reforms on those agencies were “gutted” by the conference committee. Lastly, Grassley says the bill’s original intent was to shape up the investment firms that started the whole financial mess.
“You’ve gotta’ remember, this is supposedly going after Wall Street, but Goldman Sacs is supporting it,” Grassley says. “So is it really doing much to Wall Street if Wall Street wants to get it passed?” Many consider the bill to be the top legislative priority for congressional leaders and for President Obama. The two Republican senators who pledged their support for the new version of the bill Monday are Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Olympia Snowe of Maine.