Parties feud in public, deal in private on bank bill 

Senate Democrats are coming down hard on Republicans in public for resisting President Obama's bank regulation package. But in private, they're showing a new willingness to work with the GOP.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters he has alerted Republicans that he plans to bring the bill to the floor "this week or early next week," signaling that he is not willing to wait the several weeks some top Republicans say are needed to work out a compromise that could attract substantial Republican support.

Reid is hoping intense public pressure from Democrats, who are accusing the GOP of trying to protect Wall Street bankers, will be enough to convince at least one centrist Republican to vote for the bill. The Democrats control 59 votes and need one Republican to reach a filibuster-proof majority.

"Republicans, so far, have proven they're on Wall Street's side," Reid said. "I hope they'll reconsider."

But despite Reid's threat to forge ahead without the GOP, he is at the same time working with them on a compromise behind the scenes. His willingness to wait until next week to move a bill to the floor is a clear sign that Democrats have yet to win over a Republican.

Reid also acknowledged he could modify a provision Republicans oppose that would create a $50 billion fund to enable the federal government to wind down failing financial institutions. The GOP says such a fund will institutionalize federal bank bailouts.

While Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., wants to keep the fund in the bill, saying it protects taxpayers, the White House has told centrist Republicans that Democrats may be willing to remove it, and Reid acknowledged Tuesday, "It's something we're going to take a look at."

Republican leaders, meanwhile, are hoping all 41 members of their conference continue to stick together in opposition, which gives them power at the negotiating table. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is trying to woo moderate GOP senators and has met with Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, in addition to a half-dozen other Republicans. President Obama called Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts to lobby him personally on Tuesday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said a letter Republicans sent to Reid last week, requesting new bipartisan talks on the bill, "has worked, at least for the short term."

That comment hit a nerve with Reid, whose office put out a scathing response to McConnell's claim.

"Are you sure it isn't the blistering criticism you're receiving for your closed door meetings with Wall Street executives or that even members of you own party aren't buying your message?" the memo says.

The bill could also be slowed this week by problems with merging the financial reform provisions, authored by Dodd, with separate legislation authored by Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., that would impose strict new regulations for trading derivatives. Snowe has signaled support for the Lincoln measure, but Dodd has so far been noncommittal.

"We need to look at the specifics of the bill," he said.

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