Reed and Financial Reform

Senator Jack Reed has been at the center of a months-long effort to tighten restrictions on derivatives - financial instruments at the heart of the economic meltdown.

He has been working with Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, on a derivatives bill that was to be near the center of a larger financial reform package now consuming Washington. Gregg said last week that the pair "basically" had a deal. But Reed threw cold water on the idea.

Then, Senator Blanche Lincoln's competing derivatives bill took center stage when the Senate Agricultural Committee approved it with a Republican, Senator Chuck Grassley, on board. Grassley's support was no small detail - the Democrats will need at least one GOP vote to surmount a filibuster and proceed with debate on a broader financial reform package.

Still, Lincoln's surprisingly tough bill went further than what the White House and many Democrats wanted, feeding speculation that it might not survive and that the Reed-Gregg measure out of the banking committee, widely viewed as more moderate, might make a comeback of some kind.

Now, though, Lincoln's approach has the support of Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, and has traction - aided, in no small part, by the news of a federal lawsuit against Goldman Sachs for alleged shady dealings on mortgage derivatives. A merger of the agriculture and banking committee bills reportedly includes many of the tough provisions in the agriculture committee bill.   

The GOP is expected to hold firm tonight on a key test vote on the larger financial reform package, blocking debate on the legislation. But with the Republicans leery of appearing too pro-Wall Street, hope for reform is still very much alive.

Whatever happens with derivatives, Reed - who serves on the Senate Banking Committee - will be a key voice.

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