Democrats Reopen Conference On Bank Bill As Votes Disappear

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The leaders agreed to reconsider a $19 billion assessment on banks they stuck in the bill at the last minute, as Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, one of just four Republicans to vote for the bill last month, threatened to change his vote over the assessment. The two Maine Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who voted for the bill, are also considering changing their vote because of the assessment.

The 2,000 page bank bill, now known as the Frank-Dodd Financial Reform Act, is opposed by credit unions because it includes an amendment that would establish the Federal Reserve as a regulator on interchange fees charged on debit cards.

The rare reopening of the so-called conference comes a day after the death of Democratic Senate icon Robert Byrd, threatening the slim majority the Democrats mustered to pass the bill the first time. Both the Senate and House must now vote the bill a second time after the different versions of the bill were combined in a conference between congressional leaders.

Brown’s defection would leave the Democrats with only 57 certain votes, meaning they would need both Maine senators and Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the only other Republican voting in favor the first time, to retain the 60 votes they need, in order to overcome an expected filibuster by the Senate Republicans.

The reopening of the conference could push a final Senate vote on the bill back till after next week’s Independence Day recess.

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