McConnell Waves the White Flag

(Bloomberg View) -- Financial regulation legislation, R.I.P. -- probably, after Mitch McConnell basically surrendered Tuesday on a bill that would overhaul the Dodd-Frank Act, as Bloomberg's Elizabeth Dexheimer reports. 

What's going on here is that congressional Republicans quite literally have no idea how to do bipartisan legislating on major issues. Or at least they've shown no interest in doing so, at least since Paul Ryan took over as speaker of the House in October 2015. 

Financial regulation actually lends itself to bipartisanship. Some of the issues involved are ideological, to be sure, but others are more regional or local, meaning that a bill that draws support from both parties should theoretically be possible. To be sure: Democrats enacted Dodd-Frank to begin with on a mostly party-line vote, and not just because Republicans were attempting to avoid giving any bipartisan support to Barack Obama. But Democrats had the votes to draft a law that more or less fit what liberals including Elizabeth Warren wanted. Republicans, as McConnell understands, do not: With only 52 Republicans in the Senate, they will need some Democrats to defeat a filibuster. 

That leaves them with two choices. They could accept that the cornerstones of Dodd-Frank, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, are here to stay, and they could move on to find items that Republicans strongly dislike and Democrats are willing to give up in return for other Democratic priorities. In other words, they could try to legislate. Or House Republicans could charge ahead with their ideal bill and let it die by filibuster in the Senate. Which is what is actually happening. 

As Dexheimer reports, this means that the real action moves to the regulators, which also means that whatever happens during the Donald Trump administration could potentially be overturned without Congress during a future Democratic presidency. The real question I have is: Will Republican-aligned interest groups that care about financial regulation be willing to accept the Republicans' choice of symbolic congressional action in the House, or will they push McConnell and Ryan to actually get done what can be done? 

1. Stephen Tankel at the Monkey Cage on how Trump endangered the United States. 

2. Also at the Monkey Cage: Henry Farrell interviews John Pfaff about the renewed war on drugs

4. Julia Azari, Perry Bacon Jr. and Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight on how politicians don't give up on their same-party president even during scandal. A good piece and very much worth remembering. It's also worth remembering (as they note) that Republicans in Congress did finally give up on Richard Nixon after the "smoking gun" tape was released and the House Judiciary Committee had already voted for impeachment; at that point, Nixon's support in Congress collapsed completely, and he resigned instead of going through almost certain impeachment and conviction by overwhelming votes. Two other points: One is that some Republicans did support impeachment even without that crucial piece of evidence (and the evidence was overwhelming); a slim minority of Republicans right now couldn't remove Trump, but they could ensure a serious investigation. And the other is that the ground shifted during Watergate (and, for that matter, Bill Clinton's White House sex scandal) so that even when same-party members of Congress opposed impeachment and conviction, many of them still condemned wrongdoing and supported investigations and, in many cases, punishments short of removal.  

6. My Bloomberg View colleague Albert Hunt argues that even finding a new Howard Baker would be futile for this president. I come down on the other side of this one -- I think the difference would be meaningful even if Trump was still inept -- but Hunt might be right (and I certainly agree with him about Barber Conable).

7. And the Lawfare group on the James Comey memo showing Trump tried to shut down the investigation of Michael Flynn

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Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.

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