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Senate should keep debating financial regulation

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As Senate majority leader, Harry Reid has to juggle a lot of bills, and he has to carefully, jealously, guard the Senate's limited floor time. Republicans use the filibuster process to stretch the votes on non-controversial legislation -- like, say, next week's extension of jobless benefits -- so they take many days rather than a couple of hours, and they use objections to unanimous consent as a way to slow the Senate's general work. The result has been to turn Senate floor time into a precious, and worryingly limited, commodity, which suits the Republicans just fine as less floor time means fewer Democratic accomplishments. But the more I think about Harry Reid's insistence that the Senate finish financial regulation this week so it can move onto other priorities next week, the more I think Reid is in the wrong on this one.

As Annie Lowrey reminded me, the process that the financial-regulation bill followed to the floor was not a normal process. Normally, big bills are subjected to intense scrutiny and many, many amendments in one or more committees. Think back to health care, which spent months getting debated and amended in both the Finance and the HELP committees before being tweaked yet again when Reid merged the two bills -- and all of that happened before the bill hit the Senate floor. And that was all happening on an idea that the Senate understood quite well, that the media had been focused on for a long time, and that the presidential candidates had debated during the 2008 campaign.

Not so with financial regulation. Chris Dodd passed it out of the Banking Committee on a party-line vote in about 20 minutes. No amendments. No consideration. The idea, as Dodd explained it, was to strike a deal with Richard Shelby and amend it on the Senate floor. The result of this, of course, was that the only real space for consideration of the bill was on the Senate floor. And most senators didn't seriously engage on the issue till very recently.

Whether you believe that the repeal of Glass-Steagall contributed to the crisis or not, surely, as Maria Cantwell argues, the issue deserves consideration in this bill. And because that work wasn't done in the Senate Banking Committee, it has to be done on the Senate floor. If that means the schedule gets stretched and the Senate has to work weekends and through Memorial Day, then so be it.

"Remember," Reid said at a press conference yesterday, "this is a big piece of legislation, and there is no way, as Senator McCaskill said, that we can make this perfect." But no one is asking for, or expecting, perfection. The request is that the amendment process to be given a little bit longer to play out, at least until the really major amendments -- like restoring Glass-Steagall and putting the Volcker rule into place -- are off the table. We're still suffering from the aftereffects of a brutal financial crisis that was, at least partially, the result of the Senate's inattention to financial regulation. So if the Senate needs another week or two to get the regulatory response closer to right, then it should take that time.

By Ezra Klein  |  May 20, 2010; 9:37 AM ET
Categories:  Financial Regulation  
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Full disclosure:

"As the lovely Annie Lowrey, my lover and partner, whispered to me in pillow talk this morning...:
the process that the financial-regulation bill followed to the floor was not a normal process. "

Seriously Ez, the WaPo is cool with you crediting your ladyfriend's expertise like this. She's the only credible source out there that could quote you the same info, and thus you must rely on your lover's expertise?

Just wondering because journalism ethics generally don't encourage bedfellow sources. Like with the appearance of nepotism, even the idea that you might be misled by her expertise and musing, because you have a more complicated personal relationship with your sources is to be avoided.

Is the WaPo so hot for you to bring them in young liberal eyeballs (is it working??) that they're throwing all semblance of credibility out the window. You're credentialed sure, and I understand that the demographics now in power probably see you as a fresh-faced grandson or something, but to be fair to readers -- if this continual citing of Ms. Lowrey continues...

you ought to disclose each and everytime that she's also sharing your bed as your self-confessed partner, or lover (whatever words you progressive kids use these days.)

Thanks! Knowledge is power, and familiarity breeds ... babies. (Maybe you two could be the Boris Beck and Steffi Graf of the ponificating economists world: breeding the next generation of experts. ;-)


Posted by: Mary42 | May 20, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

The longer this drags on the more money I lose. But who cares about me...

The longer this drags out the more decisions to hire and make investments are put off. Which adds to unemployment and the general overall sour feeling of the economy right now. Pass the damn bill and lets move on. The unemployment rate will thank you.

Posted by: luko | May 20, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Mary, I must say I feel a twinge of sadness that EKs not gay so THANKS A LOT for that one.

But anyway I think you have valid points and you are obviously smart and informed but the way you write is so snarky and condescending it makes it hard for me to take seriously.

Posted by: luko | May 20, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

I agree wholeheartedly. Another week or two it should be.

Posted by: keilprti1 | May 20, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse


so you're basically saying that Reid erred (and Corker was right) when he said the bill was ALMOST THERE several weeks back and they should have finished the important things like Glass Steagal in conference committee.

In answer to Reid you don't have to make it perfect but you DO have to make it make sure that another collapse doesn't happen again. If enough legislators believe that it doesn't (on both sides of the aisle) Reid has to rethink his strategy in the limited amount of time he has in office left.

Posted by: visionbrkr | May 20, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

What Luko said. Not that I wouldn't recommend Ms. Lowrey keep shopping around (don't settle, girlfriend! do you really want to be sitting across from this guy, eating sous-vide in 20 years? Think about it), but the snark and condescension makes it impossible take what Mary says seriously. Or care if she's smart.

It adds absolutely nothing to the conversation. What gives her comment here a little bit of meta-ironic flare is she is accusing Ezra of not being credible because he is citing the work of somebody he has a personal relationship with, while destroying her own credibility through snark, innuendo, and general nastiness.

That being said, if there isn't time for Glass-Steagall, they aren't serious about FinReg accomplishing anything but a bullet point in the next campaign.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 20, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

"But anyway I think you have valid points and you are obviously smart and informed but the way you write is so snarky and condescending it makes it hard for me to take seriously."

Thinking can sometimes be uncomfortable. I'm ok with that myself.

And my questions were honest: has the WaPo not talked with the young man about ethics, as I understand he is an economic not a trained journalist?

It might seem innocuous enough here to continually cite to one's lover without disclosure, but it's a bad habit to fall into. Like with the Jayson Blair scandal at NYT, there's a reason we take a close look at who is reporting our news, their qualifications and their own relationships within the businesses they are covering.

Best to avoid the appearance of nepotism, and seek a wider source pool is all I'm saying. Fishing in your own bedrooom pond ... well you just might either miss something, have conflicts of interest in your reporting, or be misled on the issues.

Ms. Lowrey seems like a capable enough career woman: let her make her way without extra special citations from her lover/partner is all I'm saying. Yes she can! Without her lover's help.

(and no "luko" -- I wasn't implying the Ez is gay by using that former word -- it was his choice of description way back when he initially disclosed Ms. Lowrey was his lover in a post way back when...)

Posted by: Mary42 | May 20, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I respectfully disagree, Kevin.

And I suspect you're going to see a lot more "impolite" talk in the coming years that you don't want to hear, about our news coverage and honest disagreement with the policy prescriptions pushed here.

Deal with it. Join a church group if you don't want your feelings hurt by people who hold opinions other than yours, and aren't shy about honestly expressing them.

Newspaper talk sometimes get rough. If Ez and Annie aren't up to it (and personally, I think they are), perhaps they should seek out a non-profit or fund a mission to advance their joint policy prescriptions for the nation.

His work here is influential, for better or worse, and the comment threads are here for others to express their opinions on his work. Fear not, Kevin Willis. It must be hard when you first realize that not everyone thinks the way you were brought up, or communicates in such a hothouse flower way either...

Toughen up buttercup?

Posted by: Mary42 | May 20, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Mary. As much as I like Ezra, he should not be quoting his girlfriend this awesome, and when he does, he should tell us who she is.

You lose your credibility Ezra when it seems like you're just trying to get your girlfriend more page views.

Posted by: millerjs1 | May 20, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

oops. I mean often, not awesome. ha Freudian slip I guess?

Posted by: millerjs1 | May 20, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

This bill is a massive intrusion into the private market place that'll affect not only the big Wallstreet firms but your local community banks. It will affect the average American everytime they go out to buy a car, a house, get a credit card, etc. This massive big government bill touches everything and will drive up the cost of every financial transaction performed in this country. It's rather telling that big banks like Citbank are in favor of it but samll community banks oppose it.

Posted by: RobT1 | May 20, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

For chrissakes people, he didn't quote pillow talk, he linked to a, you know, published piece by her. The vast majority of bloggers and journalsits are men. If they can't quote partners who are published authors, it denigrates the work of many women and reduces their opportunity to be heard. All the regular readers know they are in a relationship. And other people he cites are friends. So what? The point is, her points were good, and seeing her as his appendage is demeaning to women and restricts them from being taken seriously as writers.

So how did someone (Shelby) who is as dumb as a sack of hammers (even if he is smarter than Jeff Sessions) outmaneuver Reid and Dodd? Does Dodd really want serious fin reg? Doesn't really look like it. Will Chuck Schumer as Majority Leader be better for ordinary people? This is what we should debate. The rest is more nothing gossip and maybe fun but a real timewaster.

Posted by: Mimikatz | May 20, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

I find myself in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with Mimikatz. More to the point:

@Mary: "about our news coverage and honest disagreement with the policy prescriptions pushed here."

It's interesting that you consider irrelevant gossip and innuendo, wrapped in general nastiness, to be the same thing as honest disagreement about policy prescriptions. I often disagree with Ezra's policy prescriptions, but tend to address those (if the mood strikes me), not personal stuff that has nothing to do with anything, with snarky insults thrown in for good measure.

"comment threads are here for others to express their opinions on his work."

Indeed. And if your opinions are insubstantial, depending on rudness to get noticed, then you can expect to get called on it. Fair is fair, after all.

"It must be hard when you first realize that not everyone thinks the way you were brought up, or communicates in such a hothouse flower way either..."

Wow. You know a lot about me. I'd be interested if you could tell me who I voted for in the last several elections, who I would have most preferred as president in the last cycle (hint: not the person at the top of either ticket) and how I describe myself politically. Since you know so much about me.

"Toughen up buttercup?"

If you're a jerk, and rude, people are going to call you on it. You can pretend that they just need to toughen up, but don't expect the fact you have the courage of your convictions to give you carte blanche to be uncivil. Just a thought.

Be sweet.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 20, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

personally I love the irony of Mary saying she "respectfully disagrees" with Kevin and then she's everything BUT respectful.

seems like someone toughened her up but good. oh and look another blogger trolling her wares. Raise your hand in here if you're NOT a blogger.

and while I do respectfully disagree with a lot of what Ezra says my two cents (as if anyone cared) is that Ezra can quote whoever he wants to. I mean it is his blog isn't it? If you don't like it, go start your own. Oh wait, she did. Scratch that, if you don't like it then don't read him.

My God I agree with MimiKatz too. What is this world coming to?

Posted by: visionbrkr | May 20, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Yeah. Gotta tell ya Mary, if Kevin_Willis is the guy you choose to hit with your condescending stick, you just gave yourself away as being new to reading this the blog, or at least the comment section.

Your initial comment is valid and it's fair to call Ezra on his sources. But it's not enough substance for a multi-post flame.

If you have some thoughts on the topic at hand, be glad to hear them. But your "my gritty old-school-newsroom ways will show you youngsters how the world really works" style doesn't impress.

Posted by: BHeffernan1 | May 20, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

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