Senate Republicans Vote With the Money; Wall Street Wins Over Car Dealers

Emily Calhoun | May 24, 2010

May 24, 2010 - After voting for passage of the Financial Reform bill, two amendments stalled out of Senate negotiations: an oversight exemption for auto dealers and reinstatement of the Volcker Rule.

Republicans, led by Sam Brownback (R-KS), wanted to exempt auto dealers from oversight by the newly established Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA). Democrats Jeff Merkley (OR) and Carl Levin (MI) wanted to ban banks from doing proprietary trading (the so-called Volcker Rule). When the two amendments became linked late last Thursday, forcing one vote on both measures, Republicans had to decide if an exemption for auto dealers was more important than Wall Street's opposition to the Volcker Rule. A look at the campaign contributions to Senate Republicans from both groups over the last few election cycles might explain why the auto dealer exemption didn't make it off the lot.

Contributions from auto dealers to Senate Republicans over the last six years: $1,232,911 (April 1, 2004 – March 31, 2010).

Contributions from banks to Senate Republicans over the last six years: $5,521,767 April 1, 2004 – March 31, 2010).

Preparing for the House-Senate conference committee negotiations, the Senate on Monday voted on a non-binding motion to recommend further consideration of the Brownback amendment. The motion passed 60-30, meaning that there is still a chance for auto dealers to get the exemption passed in conference.  Senators voting to continue to push for the auto dealer exemption received 174% more money from auto dealers as the Senators voting no.