Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra

It was two years in the making, runs to 2,300 pages, took three Republicans to pass it, and 11 pens to sign it into law. President Barack Obama put the seal on a drastic overhaul of the rules governing Wall Street and the banking industry today, using a separate pen for each letter of his name. FINANCIAL-REGULATION/OBAMA

Behind him, Joe Biden chatted throughout the signing ceremony, often with his back to the camera, so we just have to assume the vice president thinks this particular legislative victory is also a “big … deal”.

Influential business groups lined up with Republicans to criticize the new law for the 533 new regulations they say it imposes, while Obama’s one-time friend, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, was not even invited to the signing ceremony. No sign of a rapprochement in the relationship between the presidency and Big Finance, as Obama used the occasion to take another swipe at “unscrupulous” lenders and the “abuse and excess” that lay behind the financial crisis.

It was Obama’s second major legislative victory of the year, confounding all those obituaries of his presidency written in the wake of Scott Brown’s Massachusetts victory in January. But there was one other set of numbers today that the president may find particularly uncomfortable reading.

Another poll, this time from Quinnipiac, showed the president’s approval ratings falling to a new low, and independents continuing to desert the Obama cause. More voters are now saying they would pick an unnamed Republican over Obama in 2012, although at this early stage the president still comes out ahead when pitted against Sarah Palin.

Snowe says “yes” to Wall St. bill

The decision is in….snowe2

Senator Olympia Snowe has ended the suspense, announcing that she will support the financial regulatory reform bill.

Snowe, a moderate Republican from Maine,  joined fellow Republicans Scott Brown and Susan Collins – the other senator from Maine — in saying “yes” to the measure that most in their party strongly oppose.

Their backing leaves Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Democrats just one vote shy of the 60 needed for the measure to advance.

Will she or won’t she?

USAThe suspense continues…

All eyes are on Senator Olympia Snowe, a moderate Republican from Maine, who has not yet decided on how she will vote on financial regulatory reform.

Snowe’s could be the crucial 60th vote after Republican Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown said on Monday that he will support the bill.

On Saturday Snowe said she hadn’t decided and that the most important thing was “to get it right.” Her view had not changed so far today, a staffer tells me.

Obama tries to make political mountain out of ant hill

President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats are trying to make political hay out of a comment by House Republican leader John Boehner that managed to mention ants and nuclear weapons in the same sentence.

In an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Boehner  criticized the financial regulatory reform legislation making its way through Congress as an overreaction to the financial crisis. “This is killing an ant with a nuclear weapon,” he said.

ANTSDemocrats couldn’t resist pouncing on it. Especially since they are struggling to come up with the votes to pass the landmark legislation through the Senate where 60 votes in the 100-seat chamber are required to overcome procedural hurdles.

Driving Mr. Summers on financial regulation reform, G20

USA-SUMMERS/Larry Summers, a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama, is a realist when he says “people are imperfect and we have not seen the last misjudgment.”

So,  in his view, financial regulatory reform is just as necessary as, well, laws aimed at ensuring safe driving.

He cites the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s belief that people being people are probably going to drive fast and recklessly, and so it would be wise to encourage seat-belt use, build crash-proof bumpers, design highways more carefully, arrest people for drunk driving, and establish a system that made accidents less likely to result from human error.