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Congress: Blocked, again

The New York Daily News headline: "Senate Republicans block Wall Street financial reform for second straight day."

Roll Call: "Senate Democrats think they have figured out how to go on offense against a united GOP intent on watering down and frustrating their agenda: Make them vote. Again, and again, and again, if need be. In what could be a template for the rest of the year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has taken off the gloves and forced Republicans into a corner on financial reform, putting the onus on them to explain to the public why they are voting repeatedly to block debate on the bill."

"Senate Republicans, attacked for twice blocking legislation to rein in Wall Street, floated a partial alternative proposal yesterday and said it could lead to a compromise on an issue that commands strong public support," the AP writes. "The 20-page outline includes provisions that would let struggling financial giants fail before assessing costs for their liquidation instead of creating a prepaid resolution fund. It would also impose regulation on many but not all trades of derivatives; seek a more limited council to ensure consumer protections, rather than creating an agency; and overhaul regulations on mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, an issue Democrats want to take up in separate legislation."

Turning to yesterday's Senate hearing on Goldman Sachs…. "Even before the first question was leveled inside the Senate chamber, yesterday was going to be uncomfortable for Goldman Sachs. But then the questions kept coming -- and coming and coming," the Boston Globe writes. "Into the evening, Goldman Sachs executives met with confrontation and blunt questioning as senators from both parties challenged them over their aggressive marketing of mortgage investments at a time when the housing market was already starting to falter. In an atmosphere charged by public animosity toward Wall Street, the senators compared the bankers to bookies, and asked why Goldman had sold investments that its own sales team had disparaged with a vulgarity."

Congress-watcher Norm Ornstein writes, "The deterioration of the center in American politics is one of the most distressing signs of dysfunction in our political system." And "it is even more apparent outside Washington, especially in the electoral process." His solution is "one simple, powerful reform could transform our politics, our dialogue and even our policy outcomes" -- mandatory attendance at the polls. "Australia, where I have spent some time and know many top leaders from both major parties, provides the best example. Down Under, voters who do not show up at the polls are subject to a modest fine, the equivalent of about $15, or less than a parking ticket. That modest nudge has over time boosted Aussie turnout to more than 95 percent. The fine matters; it has also led to an ethos that it is an obligation for citizens to vote."