WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans voted Wednesday to delay final action on a sweeping financial regulation bill, raising an obstacle to the legislation as it approached the home stretch.
The vote was 57-42, three votes shy of the 60 needed to assure passage. Three Democrats joined 39 Republicans in voting against the measure. Among them was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who switched his vote from yes for procedural reasons. Reid said he would seek a new vote today.
With Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., absent, Democrats needed one more vote to demonstrate to Republicans that they would eventually prevail and set the stage to pass the biggest rewrite of financial regulations since the Great Depression.
Breaking with their party were Democratic Sens. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Maria Cantwell of Oregon. Two Republicans — Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe — voted with the Democrats.
The legislation would set up a mechanism to watch out for risks in the financial system, create a method to liquidate large failing firms and write new rules for complex securities blamed for helping precipitate the 2008 economic crisis. It also would create a new consumer protection agency, a key point for President Barack Obama.
A gambling rationale
Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., told colleagues during a congressional hearing Wednesday that millions of Americans gamble on the Internet each day, despite laws to prevent it. Citing industry analysts, McDermott said they wager nearly $100 billion annually, generating an estimated $5 billion for offshore operators.
"Regulation and taxation have proven to be a better policy for our country when it comes to alcohol," McDermott said, referring to the Prohibition era. "The same is true for online gambling."
Kagan hearing set
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, announced Wednesday that hearings on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan would begin June 28, in time to be wrapped up before the Senate's weeklong July 4 break.
That would put the Senate on track for a vote to confirm Kagan, which for now appears likely, before senators depart for a monthlong August vacation.