From NBC's Ken Strickland
After meeting today with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins reaffirmed her opposition to the financial regulatory reform bill. And she made it clear she'd vote against starting debate on the bill if Majority Leader Harry Reid attempts to bring it to the floor later this week, citing Republicans' strategic disadvantage.
"But I also told him of my belief that we can work out a truly bipartisan bill that will strengthen our financial system," Collins told reporters following her meeting with Geithner. She said the thought such an agreement could be worked out in a few weeks.
Collins chief criticism of the bill is the $50 billion fund that would be used to wind down failing firms. She said the fund would send a signal that firms could continue to engage in risky practices with the knowledge that money would be available to bail them out (even though the firms would finance that $50 billion fund). Collins said that Geithner "agreed with my concerns," and that the administration did not support such a fund.
As a remedy, the senator suggested that there be higher capital requirements for institutions as they increase in size.
She said the bill "does nothing" to address the problems with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, "which obvious contributed to the financial crisis." More transparency in derivatives was also an area of concern for Collins.
Instead of blocking the bill from coming to the floor, Democrats says Republicans should bring the bill to the floor and offer amendments to make whatever changes they think are necessary. Republicans, seeing the strategic disadvantage, are pushing to negotiate a new bill first and then bring it to the floor.
Strategically, Republicans would face a daunting task of changing the bill if they allowed it to go the floor "as is." Democrats could vote to "table" or essentially kill any Republican amendment with only 51 votes. In a worst case scenario, Republicans would have to find 60 votes (or flip 19 Democrats) to overcome a Democratic filibusters on a Republican amendment.
(Democrats used the "tabling" strategy successfully last week in the bill to extended unemployment benefits, killing at least three Republican amendments from Tom Coburn.)
"It's much harder to correct fundamental flaws in a bill once it's gone to the Senate floor," Collins said. "For one thing it can take 60 votes to make those corrections."