The Senate's fiscal-reform agenda appears to have new life, judging by recent comments made by some of the chamber's most influential lawmakers.
On Wednesday, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said that the legislation, which passed his Senate Banking Committee last month along party lines, would be brought to the Senate floor ‘in a matter of hours,’ according to Reuters.
A day earlier, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., who led the GOP's attack on the Democrats' Wall Street reforms last week, indicated progress had been made in bringing both parties to the table.
"Both sides have expressed a willingness to make the changes needed to ensure without any doubt that this bill won't put taxpayers on the hook for future bailouts of Wall Street banks," he said. Later, he added, "I'm heartened to hear that bipartisan talks have resumed in earnest."
Negotiations appeared icy at the end of last week, with all 41 Republican Senators saying they would oppose the bill in its current form. Since then, reports have surfaced suggesting Democrats may be willing to amend one of the bill's most controversial provisions, which calls for the creation of a $50 billion bailout fund.
Elsewhere in the Senate, the Agriculture Committee on Wednesday voted 13-8 to approve a bill that tightens regulation of derivatives trading. Under the bill, banks that engage in risky swaps transactions would be forced to spin off their swap dealer desks or be barred from receiving any federal assistance. The legislation also includes mandatory clearing and trading requirements and real-time reporting of derivatives trades.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was the lone Republican to vote to pass the bill out of committee. In a statement, Grassley expressed disappointment that the bill was not the result of bipartisan efforts.
"Even so, I voted for the chairman's derivatives bill today because I think transparency is the right policy," he stated, noting he wants to change a provision to strengthen whistleblower protections.
"My vote for this important reform of the derivatives market doesn't mean I'll be able to support the larger financial reform bill on the Senate floor," he added. "The derivatives piece is significant, but that larger bill has a number of flaws that need to be resolved before I'd support it.