WASHINGTON — Al Franken completed a rare procedural maneuver today when his credit rating agency amendment was agreed to by the Senate on a 64-35 vote.
As we detailed in this space on Monday, Franken was able to get his first Republican cosponsor — Roger Wicker of Mississippi — through the simplest (and rarest) method of persuasion, speaking on the Senate floor about the benefits of his legislation. A handful of veteran reporters and Senate staff I informally surveyed said they hadn’t seen that done in more than 10 years.
Franken’s measure would create a new federal commission to assign credit rating agencies to do the initial rating for a new financial product, either randomly or through a semi-random formula that weights previous performance, so that Wall Street firms aren’t hiring the firms that rate their products (and, potentially, shopping around for the firm that will give them the best rating). More details of the proposal can be found here.
“My proposal wasn’t conservative, or liberal, or even moderate,” Franken said. “It was just plain common-sense. That’s why I had the support of colleagues on both sides of the aisle and why we were able to win today.”
Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley came on board next and, eventually, they were among 10 Republicans to vote for Franken’s amendment. Just five Democrats voted against it.
“Wicker was extremely helpful on this, he actively lobbied his caucus to support it and I think that showed through the number of Republicans who voted for it,” Franken said.
It should be noted that convincing anyone on Capitol Hill of anything through a floor speech is rare, given that said speeches are usually delivered in an almost-empty chamber.
No one officially keeps track of this stuff (so full disclosure that this is anecdotal record keeping) but I asked some of the long-timers and staff in the Senate Press Gallery if any of them could remember the last time a Senate floor speech actually changed the directon of an amendment like Franken’s did — taking it from an procedural no-hoper to approval.
The most recent one that anyone could come up with was when Illinois Democrat Carole Moseley Braun did it during her single term in the Senate, which ended in 1998.