Byrd's death leaves Dems short on key votes 

The death of Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., has left Senate Democrats grief stricken but also one more vote short of the 60 they need to pass a financial regulatory overhaul bill they had hoped to take up this week.

Senate Democratic leaders said they plan to forge ahead with the bill despite what appears to be at least a two-vote deficit for preventing a certain Republican filibuster. Without Byrd, Democrats now control 58 votes.

Byrd died early Monday morning at age 92. Though infirm for months, he dutifully reported to the chamber in his wheelchair to vote on key bills and had been expected to do so on the financial reform measure before he fell ill last week.

The legislation is a compromise bill written last week by both the House and Senate that would establish a consumer protection agency and would set up a system to allow the federal government to dismantle troubled financial institutions.

The Senate passed its own version of financial regulatory reform in May with 59 votes, four of them from Republicans. But at least one GOP member may defect. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., said he is upset with the last-minute addition of $19 billion in bank fees that he fears will be passed along to consumers.

Without Brown, Senate Democrats may have to convince the two Democrats who earlier voted "no" to change their minds, but that could prove impossible.

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., said Monday he will not back the measure because he does not believe it goes far enough to prevent another financial crisis like the one that took place in 2007 when several big banks collapsed.

The other Democrat, Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, is reviewing the legislation and will not commit to voting for it, an aide said. She voted "no" in May because she believed the legislation did not go far enough to regulate the derivative trading that also contributed to the 2007 financial collapse.

Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both Maine Republicans, as well as Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, voted for the Senate version but have not indicated whether they will back the House-Senate compromise.

Senate Democrats also have the option of waiting for West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, to appoint another Democrat to replace Byrd, which he could do at any time. One name being floated is Nick Casey, former chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party and longtime ally of Manchin.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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