After standing together for three cloture votes over three days, Republicans quietly gave up their filibuster of a Wall Street Reform bill on Wednesday evening, allowing debate to begin on the bill this morning.
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell tried to put the best dressing on the decision as he could, arguing that his party wrung some concessions out of Democrats in recent days.
"The time afforded by my Republican colleagues and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) was instrumental in gaining assurances from the Chairman that changes will be made to end taxpayer bailouts and the dangerous notion that certain financial institutions are too big to fail," McConnell said.
At about the same time, top negotiator Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) said talks had simply reached an impasse on other issues.
"It is now my belief that further negotiations will not produce additional results," Shelby said, referring in part to a dispute over the reach of a new consumer financial watchdog office that is in the bill.
Democrats said they were not willing to water down that provision, or others that Republicans had been focusing on.
"For the last year and a half, I have worked with Senator Shelby as I crafted the bill to reform Wall Street," said Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), "but I cannot agree to his desire to weaken consumer protections given the enormous abuses we have seen."
"It is time for this debate to begin. And it must be a serious, vigorous debate," Dodd added.
While Dodd and other Democrats said they wanted to see a lot of amendments offered and voted upon, too often that promise has been a hollow one from a Senate majority.
For example, the amendment process back in December on the health care bill was limited from the start, as Democrats ran out the clock for the most part before forcing a cloture vote to shut off debate.
A real, freewheeling debate on this bill could last for six weeks. I'm sure Democrats would like to finish this bill next week, but May 14 is a more likely - as Democrats will probably try to vote down most GOP amendments on Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac and more.
Hopefully we will get the final bill language today as well. We have been hearing a lot about what is in this financial reform measure, and it would be nice to see the fine print.
Because we all know that will give us some new insight into financial reform legislation.