Political Bargaining And The Filibuster

Senator Russ Feingold has refused to sign on to the FinReg conference compromise and Susan Collins has pulled the ball away yet again. Maria Cantwell, who voted against FinReg before, has not stated her position yet.

I want to take a look at Feingold's position for a moment and consider whether he is engaged in political bargaining and whether his use of the filibuster procedure is a good idea. (For background, see my previous writing on political bargaining.) Feingold said:

As I have indicated for some time now, my test for the financial regulatory reform bill is whether it will prevent another crisis. The conference committee’s proposal fails that test and for that reason I will not vote to advance it. During debate on the bill, I supported several efforts to break up ‘too big to fail’ Wall Street banks and restore the proven safeguards established after the Great Depression separating Main Street banks from big Wall Street firms, among other issues. Unfortunately, these crucial reforms were rejected. While there are some positive provisions in the final measure, the lack of strong reforms is clear confirmation that Wall Street lobbyists and their allies in Washington continue to wield significant influence on the process.

Is this bargaining or a position? If it is bargaining, it is late in the day for this. What does Feingold want and what would be the process for getting it in? Let's discuss this on the flip.

I admire Russ Feingold. He is a man of principle. But I am not sure he is the model political bargainer. Then again, Feingold may have known all along that he would not support the FinReg bill that would emerge for the reasons he has stated.

If he is in fact still bargaining, what is the process for enacting the changes he seeks? Presumably, like the health bill, Senate leader Harry Reid can offer a manager's amendment to replace the conference bill, so long as the House is on board.

But what votes do you lose if you assuage Feingold? Collins and Scott Brown (who was given key concessions for no good reason since he is still a No vote, talk about bad bargaining by Dems) are still Nos who might flip, in theory, if they are given more concessions.

Cantwell seems to be in the strongest position to extract some minor concessions, but I am not sure what she is aiming for.

Now to discuss principles - the filibuster. While everyone seems to hate it (I am not in that camp), it is still on the books, and every single Senator of both parties use it when they want.

For the purposes of political bargaining, I think it is perfectly appropriate to use it. To stake out a point of principle, I do not think it is appropriate. YMMV.

But perhaps Feingold thinks that taking a pass at FinReg down the line is the better way to go. That there will only be one chance at reform, and that down the line a better window will open. That seems quite unlikely to me. But maybe Feingold knows something I don't.

Personally, I think these tactics made more sense during the health bill debate, where there was more time and more options. As a question of progressive bargaining, I think Feingold is taking a stand at the wrong time and in the wrong circumstances. There seems to me to be no way out here.

Unless Feingold thinks this is a bad bill. But he does not say that. He says it is not good enough. Maybe, but this really is the end of the line. Unlike the health bill, where there was clearly more maneuvering room and the virtual certainty of a bill that would achieve some progressive goals (while not sacrificing other progressive ones.)

Time will tell, but I can not stand with Feingold on this one.

Speaking for me only

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    I don't know why he didn't just agree (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by andgarden on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 08:52:12 AM EST
    to vote for cloture and then vote no. Unless there's some deep matter of principle involved, you shouldn't obstruct your party.

    But will Sen. Feingold obstruct (none / 0) (#4)
    by oculus on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 08:58:15 AM EST
    his party in the final analysis?  Didn't he say he would not vote for a health care reform bill w/o a public option?

    He never vowed to filibuster. (none / 0) (#5)
    by andgarden on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 09:01:58 AM EST
    But he stated his deep matter (none / 0) (#6)
    by dk on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 09:02:44 AM EST
    of principle.  He thinks a financial regulatory bill should, you know, how the effect of actally regulating the financial industry, at least to the point of preventing another crisis.  Are you saying that in your opinion he is prevaricating?

    Meh (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by andgarden on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 09:12:18 AM EST
    You're welcome. :) (none / 0) (#9)
    by dk on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 09:14:38 AM EST
    Feingolds (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by Socraticsilence on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 10:29:53 AM EST
    principles extend as far as the Sunday morning talkshows- never forget this is the "champion" of civil liberties who voted against closing Gitmo.

    Principle (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by christinep on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 02:08:25 PM EST
    Well, I don't presume to know what is at the center of Senator Feingold's position now--principle or practicality. I seem to recall that one of his principles allowed him to vote for AG Ashcroft's confirmation way beck in the Bush days (based on some stated belief that President's should have their nominees confirmed or suchlike.) At least, that is my recollection.

    An interesting factoid today is one polling report that shows him with a very small lead over a Republican challenger. Perhaps, Feingold is taking a populist tack (breaking up the big banks etc.)for the upper midwest voters who defined populism.  If that is so, well.... (It fits into the pols will be pols motif.)


    This isn't the first time the good Senator (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Farmboy on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 09:06:17 AM EST
    has decided that his "principles" are more important than the needs of his constituents.

    The Senator needs to remember that taking a principled stand also means that you are taking no action. And we already have 41 senators dedicated to taking no action - we don't need another.

    Don't his constituents (none / 0) (#15)
    by kdog on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 10:19:00 AM EST
    need an effective bill to reign in Wall St. grift?  They sure as hell don't need a feel-good toothless bill not to be revisited for a generation.

    The senator is right that this bill won't prevent (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Farmboy on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 10:27:08 AM EST
    a new financial meltdown. But it does contain tons of other worthwhile regulations and reforms, especially at the consumer level.

    He's making the choice for us that if Wall street isn't regulated strongly enough to suit him, then we don't need protection from MBNA or other consumer lending outfits.


    Works for me... (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by kdog on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 10:35:38 AM EST
    We don't need personal protection from these thieves, we can handle that by not doing business with them whenever possible...a little personal responibility and sacrifice of instant gratification.  AKA stop giving them our money to gamble with and stop borrowing from them.

    What the country needs is to prevent a handful of greedy mofos from being able to blow up the entire economy, and then coming to the taxpayer to pay to put the pyramid scheme back together.


    Nor necessarily our choice (none / 0) (#21)
    by jbindc on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 10:58:43 AM EST
    When we do business with someone we feel is reputable, we have no control over who they may sell our mortgages or car loans to.  Guess who buys this stuff?  The guys with the money AKA the Wall Street Boys.

    That's easy... (none / 0) (#23)
    by kdog on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 11:12:08 AM EST
    don't borrow the cash without a signed agreement the note won't be flipped to somebody else...if lender refuses, don't borrow.

    Consumers don't have that (5.00 / 6) (#26)
    by MKS on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 12:15:27 PM EST
    kind of bargaining power.   Only in an idealized, fictional world can that type of thing happen.

    If you don't go along with what the banks offer, you cannot own a car or a house or a credit card.  You cannot in effect live in modern society......

    The law calls many of these contracts, contracts of adhesion because a consumer has no effective bargaining ability.  The idea that a consumer has real bargaining power is the elevation of abstract theory over real life and real people.

    Many people want to go back pre-WWII--trash social security, get rid of the popular election of Senators, and try to create the fictional, idealized past of Father Knows Best--1890s America (that never existed for any but the smallest micro minority.)  For the longest time, Liberals used to believe that Conservatives wanted to go back to the 1950s--but that was a time of actual intellectual ferment bubbling beneath the surface of generation that just wanted a sense of normalcy after the carnage of WWII.

    Your view was perhaps best exemplified by the Lochner decision at the begining of the 20th Century, whereby the Supreme Court invalidated a Federal statute setting a maximum workweek (at 60 hours iirc) under the theory of freedom of contract.  

    No offense, but the Libertarain philosophy with regard to economics really has a beef with Roosevelt--Teddy, not Franklin.  The era of the Robber Barons proved that unfettered economic freedom meant only freedom for the wealthy.  Teddy recognized that, and as one of the original Progressives ushered in trust busting and other reforms.....

    We have tried economic Libertarianism and it results in great harm to the middle class and poor, and economic panics that result in things like the Great Depression and our current Recession.   Also, economic Libertarianism results in things like the BP oil spill.

    I understand the pull an overarching, simple, yet elegant-sounding philosophy can have.  But, again no offense, you don't need to accept the whole philosophy to get to decriminilization of drugs.....

    Economic Libertarianism is a permission slip for the wealthy to abuse the rest of us.  It is pining away for the day of the Robber Barons.....

    It is said that FDR saved Capitalism.......by making it subject to a few rules.....


    Nice post (5.00 / 3) (#27)
    by NYShooter on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 12:28:00 PM EST
    You know, as a life-long salesman, I marvel at the ineptitude of the current administration (and the D's in general) at their lousy salesmanship. Just look what the R's did with the Inheritance Tax issue by simply flipping "Death" and Inheritance.

    On Financial reform, to counter the Right's demand for a "free & unfettered" system, a simple retort from Obama, with that patented, infectious smile on his face could be, "what would baseball/football/basketball be like without referees & umpires?"


    I hear ya man... (none / 0) (#30)
    by kdog on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 01:27:14 PM EST
    they're too big to fail, and we're born to lose...way of the world.

    Tell ya this...we better start using the little bargaining power we do have, cuz Congress ain't gonna do anything of signifigance and piss off their paymasters...they're giving away the store as we type.

    Not for nothing, I'm managing in modern society without a credit card, mortgage, car loan, or even a checking account.    It is getting harder by the day, and granted I'm a special case:)...but it can be done if you're serious about not enabling leeches to leech....begging for consumer protection scraps from Congress ain't gonna cut it....money talks, bullsh*t walks.  We need to speak with the little wealth we got...it certainly can't hurt.  At least until the law is passed requiring individuals to have a checking account and credit card.


    Add... (none / 0) (#31)
    by kdog on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 01:51:17 PM EST
    I'm not saying don't regulate the financial markets...I'm saying be prepared for the regulations to be toothless and to fight for our economic survival ourselves...and we certainly shouldn't sign our lives away to the masters of the universe because they are "regulated".  Regulated grift is what we have.

    Outstanding comment, MKS (none / 0) (#35)
    by christinep on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 02:13:45 PM EST
    I'd love to see your explanation posted throughout the 'sphere. Succinct. Direct. On point. Thank you.

    Debt entitlement (none / 0) (#43)
    by waldenpond on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 07:01:37 PM EST
    If you don't go along with what the banks offer, you cannot own a car or a house or a credit card.  You cannot in effect live in modern society......

    Your attitude seems to one of debt entitlement and is thoroughly dysfunctional.

    You are trying to justify living in debt and people absolutely have control over that.  You do not have to do business with a bank to buy a car, pay cash.  You aren't entitled to own a home either.  You may want those things but people even choose to live freely without them.

    and 'own' credit cards? boy do some people have weird ideas.

    I'm with Kdog on this one.  People need to get their financial houses in order.


    Most people can't pay cash (5.00 / 1) (#45)
    by MKS on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 07:14:57 PM EST
    for cars or houses....

    Many of the same issues exist with respect to Debit as Credit cards--hidden fees, etc.

    We live in a society based on credit.  That is what makes a modern economy function.  Without credit and lending, we would not have had the economic growth that we did in the 20th Century.

    It is matter of recognizing reality.....
    Sure, tell people to not go into debt.  If they don't incur any debt at all, you have a much smaller economy by several magnitudes.

    The question exists how much debt, etc.

    But I do not know of any modern economy that does not rely on debt and lending....

    In that type of transaction, a consumer will always be prey to the banks and lenders without proper regulation.


    Well said n/t (none / 0) (#47)
    by NYShooter on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 07:27:47 PM EST
    Smaller economy? (none / 0) (#48)
    by waldenpond on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 08:02:23 PM EST
    No.  You will have a dip while behavior readjusts.  I don't contribute less than others, I merely save for new windows and then put them in, save for insulation and then put it in, save for a car and then purchase.  We are saving for a new roof for the garage.

    I estimate I contribute more to the real economy as I don't choose to pay a fee to a banker for every transaction I do.  The money I don't give to BofA, I take to the Mexican restaurant down the street.

    We did have a partial home loan and paid it off quickly.  We are looking at an income property and will purchase for cash with others.

    I agree completely that credit and debt have contributed to growth and is important for business.... would add that lack of savings and personal debt has been a negative contribution to our economy and has been a smaller part of our current bust.

    Anyone putting a vacation on a card deserves to pay 29%. ha! suckers.


    Well said waldenpond... (none / 0) (#50)
    by kdog on Wed Jun 30, 2010 at 10:54:47 AM EST
    At the end of the day we do contribute more to the local economy by not letting mega-banks leech of every transaction...a-freakin'-men.

    It just might take us a little time to get the scratch together...instant gratification comes at a price, as we witnessed during the meltdown.


    Good (none / 0) (#25)
    by NYShooter on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 12:09:38 PM EST
    In principal, no so sure in practice.

    I've bought over half a dozen properties in the last few years, mortgages from different institutions, and every one "flipped" them soon after.

    Maybe you can find a bank that holds the mtg. For 30 yrs. But the price you pay ( I believe) would be higher rates, and substantially higher credit standing.

    Could be wrong, but.....


    We have our mortgage with the (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by Anne on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 12:31:32 PM EST
    credit union, and one of the reasons we went there some years back when looking to refinance an existing mortgage was that they don't sell their mortgages.

    And, they were among the few financial institutions at that time that allowed us to set up bi-monthly payments at no cost.

    I can't remember now - maybe six or seven years ago? - they allowed us to refinance at a lower rate, and shorten the term, with none of the standard, lengthy and costly (transfer and recordation taxes) refinancing rigamarole - just signed some papers and it was done (my husband came home from work one day and said that a couple of the guys he worked with had their mortgages there and had done this - and I thought he must have misunderstood - I had never heard of such a thing - but it turned out to be true, obviously).  They stopped doing that not long after we were able to take advantage of it, so if we want to refinance again, we'd have to do it the old-fashioned way.

    We've been very happy with our credit union, and if someone is looking to bank locally, and get away from the mega-banks, I would highly recommend looking into it.


    "In practice" (none / 0) (#32)
    by kdog on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 01:55:42 PM EST
    You got me there...which is why I ain't buying a house till I can pay for it in cash...you must be out your mind to get in bed with these mega-banksters.

    Don't believe the "ownership society" hype..more like indentured servitude if you ask me.


    Yup (none / 0) (#33)
    by squeaky on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 01:59:25 PM EST
    I owned my place outright, until I found out that the bank was giving out almost free $$$...  now I am owned. Did spend the money on buying artwork though, which I am now selling off to feed the bank... lol...

    nasty, wish I were more like you. I took the bait.


    I hope the investment... (none / 0) (#36)
    by kdog on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 02:13:59 PM EST
    in the artwork went up at least, sucks you gotta sell it regardless.

    My way ain't for everbody bro...if one likes nice material things more than they dislike debt up to their eyeballs, knock yourselves out with the banksters. I just can't wrap my head around it, you can smell the stink on what they're selling a mile away...and I get my joy on the cheap.

    Ryan Bingham nails my feelings....

    "Man, I never understood why all my money
    goes down to the man at the bank.
    When all he does is sit and think
    about the money I'm gonna make."

    A nd, when there is more than one (none / 0) (#37)
    by christinep on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 02:37:39 PM EST
    in a family (say, children or family members with physical disabilities or other special needs) the living-to-be-true-to-me standard may have to extend to thee.  Seriously, kdog, I respect that you can live by the standard you set; but, in recognizing the needs (not just material "wants") of the larger community/village/city/government, please keep in mind the meaningful role of the broader self and family.

    That's another problem... (none / 0) (#38)
    by kdog on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 03:01:43 PM EST
    that you need a line of credit to see a freakin' doctor if you're seriously ill.

    For all my individualism and loner-streak, I do have a sense of community christinep...family, friend, or neighbor needs an operation, I'll give till it hurts.  I just ain't chippin' in for a Citibank exec's summer home in the Hamptons...that's crazy.  And for what?  A stereo/car/house today that I can't pay for for 6 months/2 years/30 years?  I can wait.


    I'm guessing this is Feingold's (5.00 / 2) (#20)
    by Anne on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 10:43:05 AM EST
    "last stand," so to speak, the last resort for someone whose ideas have fallen on ears that seem to go deaf when the so-called liberal Democrats want something, and are wide open when conservative Dems and Republicans start to whine.  I mean, look at Scott Brown: he got the loophole he wanted for the Volcker Rule - with the support of Obama's Treasury Department; it watered down the bill, and now, following in typical Republican fashion, Breown's wavering on whether he will vote for it because he doesn't like the way it's going to be paid for.  Once again, the Dems water down a bill to appeal to Republicans who were never going to support it in the end, so if the Dems can, by some chance, get enough votes to pass it, the Republicans get what they wanted without having to vote for it.  

    How many times does this kind of thing have to happen before someone on the Democratic side of the aisle says, "F**k this!" whips the caucus - including their own conservative members - into some kind of cohesion (as if), and they legislate from strength instead of weakness?

    Dems apparently don't bargain with their own, so I guess that leaves principle as the basis for Feingold's non-support for the bill.

    This is only position Feingold can take (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by Bornagaindem on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 11:07:55 AM EST
    and no BTD it is not too late in the day. There was no other time for him to get concessions. As you said they already gave concessions to Scott Brown in exchange for nothing. And they have signaled they may be willing to compromise even more to get a republican vote - yet again. They have not been willing to ever bargain with progressives for anything. It is only if the leadership have no other choice and absolutely need his vote that they will find a way to make this bill deal with too big to fail. It is their choice now- do something to get Feingold's vote -or let the bill fail. I am willing to bet that not even the repugs are willing to let nothing pass and this is Feingold's best chance ever. So go Feingold - stand up and make them put the real meat back in. No one else will.

    Nice Analysis BTD (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by squeaky on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 12:59:23 PM EST
    I appreciate your sober realism. Politics is not so different from sports. Seems like you are excellent at keeping your eye on the ball.

    Seems to me that the banks are going to (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by ruffian on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 04:40:51 PM EST
    find their way around most of the other things in the bill that Feingold thinks are good. There are already articles in the paper to that effect - no more free checking, etc.

    So, in effect, there is nothing in this bill worth voting for. I don't think he is bargaining - he knows his caucus well enough to know they only bargain with Republicans, and also to get what he wants they would lose many other votes. I think he's sticking to principle, and possibly also his re-election hopes.

    Not the best source but a clearly written answer (none / 0) (#1)
    by BTAL on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 08:49:08 AM EST
    Once a bill has been passed by a conference committee, it goes directly to the floor of both houses for a vote, and is not open to further amendment. In the first house to consider the conference, a Member may move to recommit the bill to the conference committee. But once the first house has passed the conference report, the conference committee is dissolved, and the second house to act can no longer recommit the bill to conference.


    Don't see how he has any leverage to force any changes.  If he is bargaining, he probably also pays the MSRP sticker price on his cars.

    Which Chamber votes first? (none / 0) (#10)
    by Ben Masel on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 09:17:22 AM EST
    Nah (none / 0) (#13)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 09:29:54 AM EST
    It can be amended by calling it a different piece of legislation.

    cantwell - 90-10 (none / 0) (#3)
    by seabos84 on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 08:55:31 AM EST
    I think there is a 90% probability that she's attempting to do something to compensate for the fact that she is a right wing defined FAKE moderate. She is of a cohort of Dems who learned in 1994 - when she lost her house seat - that going along to get along is more profitable than being a Grayson.

    I think there is a 10% she's actually found that little itty bitty 1% part of her that is going to do anything for the non powerful, AKA peons.


    Wonder what (none / 0) (#11)
    by BTAL on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 09:21:44 AM EST
    Cornhusker Kickback or Louisiana Purchase type of payoff Reid will have pull from his hat to buy Cantwell or Feingold?  All pols have a price.

    Reid could always (none / 0) (#18)
    by Socraticsilence on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 10:32:02 AM EST
    threaten to talk about the real Russ Feingold on Meet the Press- I mean Democratic John McCain loves his "maverick" rep.

    Hometown editorial (none / 0) (#12)
    by Ben Masel on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 09:22:06 AM EST
    Shorter CapTimes editorial (none / 0) (#14)
    by Farmboy on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 09:35:45 AM EST
    Feingold couldn't get his amendments passed, so he's going to scuttle the bill despite what he terms, "positive provisions in the final measure."

    And according to the writer, "the senator has been right enough times" so we should just shut up.


    Good for Feingold. (none / 0) (#24)
    by coast on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 11:33:18 AM EST
    I could care less whether its political posturing or a pricipled stance he is taking, so long as the end result is a no vote.

    This bill misses on so many levels, its amazing that Dodd and Frank can keep a straight face when talking about it.  The mere fact that nothing in this bill does anything to reform Fannie and Freddie is disgracefull.

    Back to conf cmte today, and back out today (none / 0) (#40)
    by RonK Seattle on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 06:37:01 PM EST
    ... with a new draft.


    Still a tough pass, needing Cantwell and two R's.

    Incidentally, I've noticed a conspicuous silence hereabouts regarding Sen. Lincoln's position on derivatives (which was locally presumed to be political posturing that would vanish after the AR Primary).

    It is political posturing (none / 0) (#41)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 06:49:10 PM EST
    But so is everything in politics.

    I have not closely followed the FinReg debate, as I indicated in my post.


    Once, you knew nothing about politics. (none / 0) (#44)
    by RonK Seattle on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 07:03:12 PM EST
    Now, you know so much less.

    Heh (none / 0) (#46)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 07:20:01 PM EST
    You, on the other hand, are exactly the same as ever.

    B. Lincoln...and others (none / 0) (#42)
    by christinep on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 06:59:31 PM EST
    I see what you suggest in the latter part of your comment, and agree. It always makes me wonder why some need to idealize (or demonize) particular members of our own party. And yet, usually the voting record shows what we all are: A bit more complex than all this or all that.

    I stand with Feingold (none / 0) (#49)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 08:59:05 PM EST
    It is absolutely pointless to vote for this thing if it will not prevent another crisis.  And if it would somehow modify existing laws on the books that aren't being currently enforced as some of us believe, I wouldn't vote for this thing.  Enforce the existing laws that are better than these laws.