Russ Feingold voted against the Senate version of the financial regulation overhaul and nobody much noticed or cared because a handful of Republicans voted yes and thus it passed. One gets the sense that this is oftentimes what the most liberal members really want out of these compromise bills. It’s not that they want to block them, they just want the opportunity to vote “no” and register their official objection to legislation that has, in fact, been considerably watered down at the behest of “centrist” members.
But now it looks like we’re in trouble. Not only is Feingold sticking to his “no” position, but suddenly Senators Collins, Snowe, and Brown are jumping ship as well.
The problem here, as a result, isn’t so much that Feingold’s vote is needed to pass the bill—with Senator Byrd dead, it can’t pass anyway without the moderate Republicans—as it is that it will be tough for the White House and Harry Reid to put the squeeze on the recalcitrant Republicans as long as their caucus isn’t united. As you recall, the financial regulation bill really started to move once the full political press was put on. The bank lobby is extremely powerful, but also extremely unpopular, so when there’s partisan unity and a big public focus on an issue it’s very hard to stand with the banks. But when any kind of confusion, disarray, or lack of attention enters the picture then suddenly it’s trouble.