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Financial reform: why the GOP strategy is risky

GOP leaders want to continue negotiations with Democrats over the shape of financial reform, before it moves on to the Senate floor. But a pivotal vote is set for Monday afternoon.

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Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, speaks to reporters about financial reform on Wall Street during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, last week.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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Senate Democrats are pushing for a pivotal vote on financial reform Monday afternoon, a strategy that puts Republicans at risk of being labeled obstructionists if they prevent the bill from moving forward.

Democrats say it's time to pass legislation to impose tighter regulation on Wall Street, aimed at preventing a repeat of the financial crisis and the ensuing bank bailouts. But to move forward in the Senate, the so-called Dodd bill would have to gather at least one Republican vote, which would enable floor debate on the bill to be finished without a filibuster threat.

Republican leaders said over the weekend that all 41 GOP senators will close ranks and vote to stall the start of debate. Their goal is to continue negotiations with Democrats over the shape of the bill, before it moves on to the Senate floor. Republicans say they want to tighten the bill, maintaining it now allows for future bailouts.

Politically, though, Republicans could find themselves on the losing side of this vote, if they appear to be obstructing legislation more than shaping it. The fear of such an outcome – with hotly contested congressional elections coming up this fall – could very well drive at least one GOP senator to vote with Democrats.

So the expected Senate vote is turning into a high-stakes game of chicken.

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