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Brown and Snowe Deliver for Reid

GOP Moderates Give Democrats Crucial Votes to Clear Financial Reform Bill

Moderate Republican Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) handed a huge victory Monday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and President Barack Obama, announcing they would back a historic financial regulatory overhaul bill.

With Brown and Snowe now behind the measure, Reid could schedule a final vote as early as this week.

“While not perfect, the legislation takes necessary steps to implement meaningful regulatory reforms, create strong consumer protections, and restore confidence in the American financial system,” Snowe said in a statement Monday night.

But it was Brown who came out first in favor of the bill Monday, giving Reid the crucial 60th vote he had been seeking for weeks.

With Snowe now on board, Reid could press ahead with a vote even before West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) appoints a replacement for the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D).

Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) had pressed Snowe to support the bill.

“I had a conversation with Sen. Dodd. It’s not lobbying, it’s just conversations,” Snowe said Monday before announcing her decision.

Snowe, in announcing her decision to vote for the bill, thanked Dodd specifically for preserving numerous provisions she pushed in the bill.

Snowe might not be the last Senate Republican to line up behind the bill.
Fellow Maine Sen. Susan Collins — who last week said she was “inclined” to vote for the bill — has historically been one of a handful of Republicans willing to break ranks and support Democratic bills.

In recent months, Snowe has become less of a reliable GOP vote for Reid.

Following last year’s health care debate — in which President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats made much of their bipartisan discussions with her — Snowe had indicated she felt her willingness to be bipartisan was not resulting in real concessions from Democrats.

A fiscal conservative, Snowe has long been uneasy about the growing federal debt, and her party’s decision to seize on the issue has brought her back into the fold on more issues, Republican aides said. For instance, although Snowe has voted for a number of unpaid for unemployment insurance extensions in the past, she has increasingly sided with her Republican colleagues in calling for Congress to offset them before passing another extension.

Additionally, Democratic leadership aides speculated that anti-Washington sentiments among rank-and-file Republicans may have pressured Snowe not to be the “60th vote” for financial reform, a powerful campaign slogan that has been used against other moderates such as Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) for her support of the health care bill.

Brown said that after reviewing the conference report on the bill over the July Fourth recess, he decided to support it. Conferees decided to pull a controversial $19 billion bank tax from the measure amid opposition from some Republicans, including Brown, Snowe and Collins.

“I’ve spent the past week reviewing the Wall Street reform bill. I appreciate the efforts to improve the bill, especially the removal of the $19 billion bank tax,” Brown said. “As a result, it is a better bill than it was when this whole process started. While it isn’t perfect, I expect to support the bill when it comes up for a vote. It includes safeguards to help prevent another financial meltdown, ensures that consumers are protected and it is paid for without new taxes.”

But Brown reiterated that additional reforms are needed to the system, including those to deal with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Brown said his support for the bill “doesn’t mean our work is done. Further reforms are still needed to address the government’s role in the financial crisis, including significant changes to the way Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac operate.”

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