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Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), speaking for all 41 Senate Republicans on the prospects for reforming and regulating the financial system:

That was after Susan Collins (R-ME) became the 41st signature on McConnell’s letter to Harry Reid which reads:

“We are united in our opposition to the partisan legislation reported by the Senate Banking Committee. As currently constructed, this bill allows for endless taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street and establishes new and unlimited regulatory powers that will stifle small businesses and community banks.”

All words straight out of a Frank Luntz memo, telling Republicans how to maintain the status quo while sounding like they are in favor of reform. In other words, just repeat the Luntz-inspired tactics from the health care debate, with “endless taxpayer bailouts” replacing “death panels” as the lie du jour. And a lie is exactly what it is. What will guarantee “endless taxpayer bailouts” is doing nothing. The proposed reform calls for applying the same process to the “too big to fail” institutions that the FDIC uses every day for dealing with banks that become insolvent.

Sheila Bair, head of the FDIC, and whose word I’ll take over McConnell’s 8 days a week, said as much in an interview published at American Banker on Thursday:

Would this bill perpetuate bailouts?
SHEILA BAIR: The status quo is bailouts. That’s what we have now. If you don’t do anything, you are going to keep having bailouts.

But does this bill stop them from happening?
BAIR: It makes them impossible and it should. We worked really hard to squeeze bailout language out of this bill. The construct is you can’t bail out an individual institution – you just can’t do it.

If this had been law prior to 2008, would we have seen the bailouts that took place?
BAIR: No. You could not do an AIG, Bear Stearns, or any of that…This bill would only allow system-wide liquidity support which could not be targeted at an individual firm. You can’t do capital investments at all, period. It’s only liquidity support. No more capital investments. That’s banned under all circumstances.

Do you see any way left for the government to bail out a financial institution?
BAIR: No, and that’s the whole idea. It was too easy for institutions to come and ask for help. They aren’t going to do that. This gives us a response: “Fine, we will take all these essential services and put them in a bridge bank. We will keep them running while your shareholders and debtors take all your losses. And oh, by the way, we are getting rid of your board and you, too.”

Here’s all you need to know about the dishonesty of Senate Republicans. One provision of the bill is for a $50 billion fund to dismantle the “too big to fail” banks. The fund is made up entirely of money which comes from the big banks, not one thin dime from the taxpayers. Republicans want this provision removed. But even if it goes, will they support the remainder of the legislation? I think you can guess the answer:

“McConnell suggested it wouldn’t be enough to satisfy Republicans.

“I appreciate the Obama administrations recognition of the need to substantively improve this bill,” McConnell said. “And I hope we can work with them to close the remaining bailout loopholes that put American taxpayers on the hook for financial institutions that become too big to fail.”

Oh by the way, how did the $50 billion get into the legislation to begin with? It was the result of negotiations between Banking Committee members Mark Warner (D-VA) and Bob Corker (R-TN). Needless to say, Corker now opposes the fund he negotiated to include.

Whatever it is, they’re against it.

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