Dodd’s Snow Day
He might be the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, but Chris Dodd is also a family man.
As Washington was trying to dig its way out after back-to-back snowstorms, Dodd had a triumphant day. First he announced he would negotiate a bipartisan regulatory reform bill with Sen. Bob Corker, then he apparently left politics aside and took his kids to the Hill for some good clean fun, the Reliable Source reported last week.
With the exception of a blizzard in December, the West Lawn of the Capitol has been officially restricted from sledding since 9/11, but Dodd persuaded the sergeant-at-arms to lift the ban for the holiday weekend, the Source said.
The Source said Dodd’s action — the sledding rights, not the reg reform bit — received some attention. His wife, “Jackie Clegg, shared the good news with her Capitol Hill neighbors via the Moms on the Hill Internet discussion group,” and Tom Foreman, a correspondent for CNN’s “AC360,” also gave Dodd a shout-out.
He said Dodd’s act something “ ‘could go a good ways toward restoring voter confidence in the ability of government to act sane and reasonable,’ ” he wrote Monday in an open letter to President Obama. “Seriously, don’t give me a call today; give one to Dodd, and tell him ‘Nice job on the sled thing.’ ”
Advice for Quitters
While Dodd was earning goodwill, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank was taking fellow Democrat Evan Bayh to task.
On CNN’s “Campbell Brown” show last week, the Massachusetts Democrat criticized Bayh, a Senate Banking member, for citing partisan gridlock as a reason to retire.
Instead of quitting, Bayh should try to fix the system, Frank said.
“I don’t see how you change something by — by quitting it or leaving it, whether it’s Senator Bayh or Governor [Sarah] Palin.”
Frank said members of Congress and candidates running should commit to passing a constitutional amendment repealing the need for a 60-vote margin to avoid filibuster and pass bills in the Senate.
“I wish Evan Bayh had stayed there and been one of those who would vote next January, as the Senate would have the right to do, to get rid of the filibuster,” he said. “Second, I agree there’s excessive partisanship, but I don’t see how leaving is going to change it.”
It’s hard to get things done without taking flak from both liberals and conservatives, but that’s part of the job, Frank said. He also pointed to regulatory reform legislation as an example of that.
“We passed a bill to impose financial regulation,” he said. “It’s a bill that has been criticized by some of my friends, because, yes, we did compromise. I didn’t have the votes to do everything I wanted to do. We did have the votes to do a great deal. So if you look at what went on in the House, yes, we compromised. … I think you should make compromises and stand up for them.”
Newly married and a key player in the financial reform debate at the age of 82, Paul Volcker cuts an odd figure at a conference on retirement. At an Axa Equitable Life Insurance Co. event Thursday, however, Volcker spoke as part of a program on “issues facing retirement savers” and then held a separate session with reporters.
The questioning ran from what financial products Volcker would recommend to seniors to whether he opposed JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s deal to buy Sempra Energy from Royal Bank of Scotland. It was a strange mix, and Volcker ranged even further.
Money market accounts were created to engage in “regulatory arbitrage,” he said, drawing their funds from money that would otherwise stay put in commercial banks. Fixing Social Security wasn’t rocket science — there are only a few variables that anyone could change. And the proposed Volcker Rule, which would ban proprietary trading, has been overly conflated with the debate on “too big to fail,” he added.
The latter is a separate issue that requires “a strong legislative directive,” Volcker said, even though a legal case could be made that the Federal Reserve has much of the authority it needs to unwind troubled firms now.
As for retirement, well — he’d like to. Volcker is disappointed with Washington, citing the government’s failure to nominate and confirm a Treasury undersecretary for finance. “How have we gone for more than a quarter of the time in the administration and the administration isn’t manned?”
It was all the more inexcusable, he said, given that the U.S. had just emerged from the worst financial crisis that anyone in the room had ever lived through.
Except him, he added.