Conference Committee - Where Lobbyists Attack Bills after they have passed Congress

As noted many times, lobbyists are swarming capital hill trying to stop financial reform.

Many of you probably don't know of a major kill legislation lobbyist trick in their arsenal tool basket. That trick is to kill amendments, rewrite the bill in conference committee. After a bill has passed both houses, even with some amendments passing in overwhelming majorities, lobbyists can get their chosen representatives as conferees when the House and Senate bill versions are negotiated to rectify the differences between the two versions.

Conferees are House and Senate members, but only about 3 from each congressional body. So, a select group of 6 or 8 can literally change a piece of legislation after it has passed both houses via conference committee. Lobbyists can get their representatives hand picked by Congressional and or Committee leadership and then override the vote of the Congressional majority.

This is where amendments are literally ripped out, per the conferees and one gets a completely different bill than what passed either the House or the Senate body.

Ridiculous huh?

Well, Representative Barney Frank wants to put this process on C-SPAN to try to shred some light on these dirty dealings. This is a big deal folks. Just when you think you've got some legislation for the American people, bam, in conference, the bill gets blasted with shotgun loopholes. Entire amendments are tossed and changed.

While Senate leaders have been silent on what comes after that vote, Frank, 70, said he expects a “fairly quick conference” of “a week to 10 days” to merge the two measures.

C-Span Conference

Wall Street and the public will be able to watch the joint discussions if Frank gets his way. “I think it’s very likely it will be on C-Span,” Frank said. “There was all this talk about doing that for health care, and I think we should do it with this bill.”

Yet, the reality is bills do not have to go to conference. Instead the House could just plain pass the Senate version.

There has been no decision on whether to hold a House- Senate conference on the regulatory bill, Regan Lachapelle, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said last week. The danger of taking a bill to conference would be giving members from opposite wings of the Democratic party a platform to chip away at Senate compromises, said Mark Calabria, a former Republican staff member on the Senate Banking Committee.

“The question for leadership becomes: Can you keep people out who are trying to drive that wedge between the progressive wing of the party and the Wall Street wing of the party?” said Calabria, who is now the director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute.

In lieu of a conference, the House could pass the Senate bill as is, or amend the Senate bill and send it back across the Capitol Building for another Senate vote. Frank said he would oppose that process.

We'll be watching who the conferees are as best we can and post. While the ideal world would take the strongest provisions from both bills and put them together. With the lobbyist locust swarm, plus the fact architecting a new financial regulatory system with it's complexities is not exactly a trivial matter, I'm not hopeful.

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Here is a Financial reform vote and amendment tracker

It's here if anyone is interested.

Supposedly the state is cloture by the end of the week, A volcker rule amendment, which maybe watered down at the last minute.

A strengthening of consumer protection.

I'll try to update later because odds are some of these will be changed on the floor or won't come up for a vote.

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