What Bipartisanship? Financial Reform Gamesmanship Back on

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid after the Senate deadlocked over the Iraq war on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2007

After one brief, shining day of purported bipartisanship, Democrats and Republicans are now back to calling each other's bluff on financial reform legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), pictured at left, are duking it out on the floor because Reid announced today that he is calling for a cloture vote Monday for the Senate to move ahead with debate -- despite the fact that Republicans just signaled two days ago that they are willing to go back to the bargaining table.

McConnell says that negotiations are continuing to forge bipartisan agreement on parts of the bill and that they shouldn't start debate on the bill until that is finished. He says Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) are making progress and that the negotiations should be allowed to play out.


Reid (pictured at left) counters that Republicans are being disingenuous by offering to negotiate now, and suggests they just want to drag out the process after having had months to participate in crafting the legislation.

"Health care was not Obama's waterloo," he said, referencing South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint claim from July of last year that the health care debate would be exactly that for the president. "Maybe they want this to be his waterloo. But it is not going to be."

What's really going on here is that Democrats see some political gain in holding a cloture vote Monday, no matter how the vote turns out.

If they get some Republican votes, then debate commences on the bill and they don't have to make concessions to Republicans now. If they get no Republican votes and the cloture motion fails, they can paint Republicans as defenders of Wall Street and the "Party of No."

The technical background to all this: Republicans are filibustering what is called a "motion to proceed." The cloture vote Monday would be to end the filibuster and allow debate on whether or not to even take up the reform bill. Once the bill is taken up, it can be amended and also filibustered. It will take at least one Republican vote to reach 60 and break the filibuster.

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Nancy Cordes is a CBS News Congressional Correspondent. CBS News Capitol Hill Producer Jill Jackson and CBS Radio News Correspondent Bob Fuss also contributed reporting.

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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.