In the wake of the passing of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), Senate Democrats were confronted with tricky math in their effort to pass the most sweeping Wall Street regulatory overhaul in decades.
That math just got trickier.
On Tuesday, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) (pictured), one of the few Republicans to vote for the bill, said he could no longer support it due to the inclusion of a $20 billion bank tax Democrats had inserted to make the measure budget neutral.
Bank Tax is Sticking Point
"This tax was not in the Senate version of the bill, which I supported. If the final version of this bill contains these higher taxes, I will not support it," the Republican senator wrote in a letter to Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) "It is especially troubling that this provision was inserted in the conference report in the dead of night without hearings or economic analysis."
Other Republican Senate supporters, including Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, also criticized the tax, which was inserted into the bill at 3 a.m. Friday morning.
Facing the loss of two key votes, congressional Democrats said Tuesday they would reopen the Wall Street reform bill in an effort to secure enough support for its passage. Democratic leaders were said to be searching for a solution that would replace the bank tax with another source of funding.
The conference committee is set to convene at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Two Votes Shy
Senate Democrats has been hoping to pass the bill this week, allowing President Barack Obama to sign it before the two-week July 4 recess.
With Sen. Byrd's passing, the Senate now has 58 Democrats and independents who caucus with them -- two short of the 60 votes needed overcome a Republican filibuster and send the bill to the Senate floor for an up or down vote. Democrats will thus need at least two Republicans to join them to defeat the filibuster. And they will likely need some additional Republican support beyond that, because two Democratic senators, Maria Cantwell of Washington and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, have said they will oppose the bill.
Lawmakers Will Reopen Wall Street Reform Bill After Losing Senators' Votes