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A dearth of protesters makes for a quieter financial regulation debate

By Perry Bacon Jr.
One of the big differences between the current financial regulatory reform debate on Capitol Hill and the months long fight over health-care reform is what's missing: angry conservatives holding rallies outside of the Capitol and flooding lawmakers with phone calls.

Even as most GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill have opposed the current legislation, which no House Republicans supported in a vote in December, conservative activists have not galvanized around the issue. The issue has received scant attention on major conservative blogs compared to health care and has not been a focus of the kind of aggressive opposition from conservative talk radio hosts that helped reshape the debate on last year's economic stimulus bill, which all but three Republicans in Congress also opposed.

A Gallup survey this week showed 35 percent of Republicans backed legislation to "regulate Wall Street banks," while 53 percent were opposed. That contrasts with the much stronger opposition on health care from Republicans. In another Gallup poll, 10 percent of Republicans thought the recently-passed health care law was a "good thing" -- compared to 86 percent who said it was not.

The changed dynamic in part explains the posture of Senate Republicans on the issue, as they have signaled openness to compromise. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who abandoned his role in bipartisan talks on health care last summer as conservative activists in this state threatened to challenge him in a primary if he joined Democrats on the issue, broke with his party yesterday to endorse a Democratic proposal to establish oversight of financial derivatives.

"The base is more motivated by the health care issue because they see it affecting their lives and their liberties," said Curt Anderson, a Republican strategist. "Health care is a far more polarizing issue with a majority of Americans, there is no question about that."

One top GOP aide who opposes the bill said "reg. reform is mostly finance gobbledygook that no one but a few really understand."

And even as Republican leaders have attacked the bill, some conservatives said not enough has been done.

"The base does not understand what is at stake and the GOP leadership has failed to articulate a strong message of opposition," said Erick Erickson, a leading conservative voice who runs the RedState blog.

The issues are of course vastly different, as many Republicans have long been opposed to major government intervention into the health care system, while the party is wary of being cast as defender of Wall Street. At the same time, the polarized vote in the House last year showed a split on how the two parties view the role of government in regulating the financial markets that mirrors the debate on the federal role in health care.

And some conservatives are urging the GOP to take a stronger stand on the issue. Senate Republican have not yet reached an agreement with Democrats, and some in the party said they should not until the bill is fundamentally changed.

Reaching a deal now "will gravely wound the national GOP and with it, the ability to restore balance to the Senate in November, as the current, massive mobilization of the grassroots would watch such a deal and conclude "What's the use, the GOP always sells out in the end," talk radio host Hugh Hewitt wrote on his blog this week.

By Perry Bacon Jr.  |  April 22, 2010; 2:47 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency , Economy  
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Posted by: itkonlyyou25 | April 23, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

These teabaggers are a bunch of selfish republican hillbillies who made noise during healthcare bill because they didn't want their government provided Medicare benefits being diluted. Now they won't make a fuss because government is protecting their retirement dollars being swindled by the Wall Street. Of course, their republican leaders in the congress won't protect people’s money because they can make more money from Wall Street swindlers. Even if God asks these Republicans to pay little more taxes to save the country, they may rebel with their guns against God. This is the truth behind these Bible thumping and Flag waving lunatics in America. God save America.

Posted by: Realist17 | April 22, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

The 'tea party' psychos have yet to show that they are anything other than a source for crackpot thoughts. Like their hero Bush, be sure the wealthiest are not taxed, then make certain that everyone else suffers.

Posted by: revbookburn | April 22, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

obama is a pushover
and a lapdog...

muslim extremist
muslim terrorist!

freedom of speech!

I watched south park get
CENSORED in america!!!

politically correct?

bash some christians
and evil white people...
but nevernevernever
say boooo!
to those peace loving muslims
who set off 943 BOMBS last year
in Pakistan.

everyone knows obama has been bought
and paid for by WALL STREET.
he will do whatever they pay him to do.

george W. bush III

Posted by: simonsays1 | April 22, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

"Obama's bailout of Wall Street was what started the TEA Party movement in the first place"

righto.. but bush's bailout was just okee-dokee with the 99% white Tea Creeps

Posted by: newagent99 | April 22, 2010 7:04 PM | Report abuse

"Obama's bailout of Wall Street was what started the TEA Party movement in the first place.
Posted by: pmendez "
---
You do know that the Wall Street bailouts were orchestrated by Bush/Paulson don't you?

At least the current administration put some teeth into the deals, instead of losing some $250b we are getting paid back with interest.

You can believe whatever you want, but i suggest when you post that you post actual facts, not imaginary scenarios like Obama raising your taxes when in fact he lowered them.

Just an example.

Posted by: JRM2 | April 22, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

If you have attended TEA Party rallies (like I have)you would know that there are many anti-Wall Street signs and speeches. Obama's bailout of Wall Street was what started the TEA Party movement in the first place.

Therefore, it would be ridiculous to expect the TEA Party to fight financial reform.

Posted by: pmendez | April 22, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

The teabaggers could care less about WALL STREET or Bank reform.

They only get up in arms about important things LIKE decreasing their MEDICARE or DECREASING THEIR SOCIAL SECURITY.

Their motto---REDUCE spending (except on MY programs)

Posted by: racerdoc | April 22, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Cannot imagine the Democrats will lose this fight. There will be serious political consequences for Republicans if they actively fight to filibuster this bill - and without producing any alternative to better regulating Wall Street, too.

http://www.political-buzz.com/

Posted by: parkerfl1 | April 22, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Good point rbdave. The Tea Baggers wouldn't know a derivative from a dirigible.

Posted by: Brittman1 | April 22, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

I think Gomez is right - the Teabaggers are not up in arms because they can't reduce the issues here to three-word soundbites.

Posted by: rbdave | April 22, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Quick correction, that's Squid Can Tho.

Posted by: ceflynline | April 22, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

"That's right: no protests, because the Tea Party movement has been exposed for what it is. They have ZERO interest in bank reform or ending the Wall Street-K Street Axis. They are instead in a lather about health care and cultural, racial fears about President Obama. The Tea Party silence about financial reform speaks volumes about their true values. Posted by: osullivanc1"

Or, perhaps it just is too complicated for them, and they can't find a sound bite they trust to get their opposition out that doesn't resonate strongly against them.

Financial Regulation, which ought to be something Conservative Businessmen could intelligently debate ad nauseam, is the one thing the republicans OUGHT to be experts on, and because it is ALL nuance and foot note material, they can't easily deal with it in standard Republican form.

Worse for them, of course, is that regardless of how they try to shape the legislation, they end up compromising with the Dems, and in so doing break newts first principle of getting control of Congress, NEVER compromise with a Democrat.

About the best the R's can do is keep trying to change the subject and let FinReg slide through Congress on nearly unremarked and uncovered procedures.

This is great timing and a really great trap, because it will keep popping up all through campaign 2010, and it will always be something that Republican reflex will make Republicans look in touch with only all those bad nasty bankers.

Have fun, Mitch, you have got your teeth into the political equivalent of dried barbacue shrimp Can Tho, a delicacy little known in the west, but known to its victims as the infinite chewing gum. Every chew seems to double its volume, and you just can't seem to spit it all out.

Posted by: ceflynline | April 22, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

The reason why TeaBaggers aren't up in arms about this is because conservative talking heads cannot dumb down the conversation enough for these simpletons to wrap their minds around it. If Mitch McConnel can't even understand the implications of derivatives trading, how can your average upper-middle class, fat, white American?

Posted by: SamuelGomez | April 22, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully, Republicans follow Hewitt's advice. But does he really believe the "massive mobilization of the grassroots" favor Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers?

Posted by: BBear1 | April 22, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

That's right: no protests, because the Tea Party movement has been exposed for what it is. They have ZERO interest in bank reform or ending the Wall Street-K Street Axis. They are instead in a lather about health care and cultural, racial fears about President Obama. The Tea Party silence about financial reform speaks volumes about their true values.

Posted by: osullivanc1 | April 22, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

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