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Financial reform is once again on the agenda as the House—Senate conference committee attempts to reconcile the differences between the 2 bills beginning on Thursday. This article from McClatchy doesn’t give me reason to be optimistic about the outcome:

“A group of lawmakers who are about to write an historic overhaul of the nation’s financial regulatory system has been stacked carefully with veteran compromisers — and one wild card.”

“Veteran compromisers.” To me, that translates into someone who doesn’t stand for anything. A typical politician with a moistened finger of one hand in the air to see which way the wind is blowing, while the other hand reaches for the largest campaign contribution.

“That’s Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., a flinty Yankee individualist who briefly was set to be President Barack Obama’s commerce secretary before he changed his mind. Gregg’s expected to be the leading proponent of GOP and financial sector views, and therefore a key player in shaping the final legislation.”

An “individualist” who is “expected to be the leading proponent of GOP and financial sector views?” Can you say oxymoron? More like a party-line hack who is in the pocket of the financial sector to the tune of $710,000 from financial industry PACs, and who has a 78% approval rating by the US Chamber of Commerce for his pro-business voting record.

“Gregg, who’s retiring from the Senate after this year, thinks some features of the legislation that initially passed the Senate and the House of Representatives amount to dangerous liberalism. He’s unenthusiastic about expanding government oversight of banks and other financial institutions, and creating a powerful new agency to protect consumers’ financial interests.”

In other words, Gregg is for the status quo. No new regulation necessary, leave it in the hands of private business. That’s worked so well in the Gulf of Mexico, why not do the same for Wall Street. “Dangerous liberalism?” Can it be any more dangerous than the hands-off, let the market fix itself attitude that nearly led to Great Depression, Part II?

“This bill doesn’t break down conservative-liberal. This bill breaks down populist-rational,” he said. He cited a desire in both parties to punish Wall Street and show voters that Congress can get tough with the financial sector, but he fears that could go too far.

Wrong, Senator. It breaks down along what’s in the best interest of the people vs. what’s in the best interest of the big bankers, and it’s pretty clear what side you come down on there. Go too far? These greedy SOBs nearly caused the collapse of our economy and  put millions of people out of work. Is there such a thing as going too far?

“Financial interests, which also fear the bill will overreach, hope Gregg can bridge differences. “He will help to serve as an honest broker to achieve consensus among the conferees,” said Scott Talbott, the chief lobbyist for the Financial Services Roundtable, the trade group for big financial firms.

“Honest broker.” Right. As honest as $710,000 will allow. And as usual, Democrats are sending the fox an engraved invitation to the henhouse:

“Democrats say that not only will Gregg be invited in, he also could become a crucial voice as deliberations progress.”

Which tells me one of two things. Either Democrats have a serious case of amnesia and don’t remember that no matter what Republicans say, they are there to block what they can and weaken the rest until it amounts to nothing, or Democrats on the committee don’t want real reform and Gregg is their useful idiot.

I think the latter is more likely.