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Obama takes Wall Street reform message to heartland

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Cafferty on financial reform legislation
  • President Obama wants public debate on Wall Street reform
  • Senate's top Republican signals a GOP filibuster of Wall Street reform legislation will end
  • American people "want us to get something done," Republican Sen. George Voinovich says

Macon, Missouri (CNN) -- President Obama took his message for Wall Street reforms to America's heartland for a second day on Wednesday as Senate Democrats failed for a third time to win a vote on starting public debate on the matter.

But the Senate's top Republican signaled Wednesday that a GOP filibuster of Wall Street reform legislation will end.

Top Senate Democrats said earlier they intend to keep the Senate in session Wednesday night as they continue to try to formally open debate on a financial regulatory reform bill.

On Tuesday, the president challenged Republicans to allow public debate on the reforms, telling an Iowa crowd that it's "not right" for the GOP to prevent the proposal from coming up in the Senate. The GOP senators say the proposal is too broad and needs to be tightened in closed-door talks with Democrats before coming to the Senate floor for debate.

"The American people deserve an honest debate," Obama told the crowd. "You should not have to have to wait one more day."

Obama said Senate Republicans "unanimously blocked efforts to even begin debating reform."

"They won't let it [the bill] get on the floor to be debated," Obama said. "It's one thing to oppose reform, but to oppose just even talking about reform in front of the American people and having a legitimate debate? That's not right."

The proposed reforms are intended to prevent another Wall Street meltdown like the one that led to the U.S. recession, Obama said.

"We can't let another crisis like this happen again," he said. "We can't have such a short memory that we let them convince us that we don't need to change the status quo."

Senate Democrats have accused their Republican counterparts of stalling momentum on the bill in an attempt to water it down.

The votes Monday and Tuesday on opening debate were intended to generate public pressure on the Republicans by raising awareness of their opposition to moving forward on the popular issue. A third vote on launching debate on the measure is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

One moderate Republican, Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, indicated Tuesday he would switch his vote from 'no' to 'yes' if negotiations on the bill between Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Connecticut, and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, fail to reach agreement soon.

The American people "want us to get something done," Voinovich said in explaining why he would eventually join Democrats in insisting the bill be debated on the floor.

Voinovich wouldn't say how long he would wait before switching his vote, but added, "I have an idea of how much time it takes to cut a deal." According to Voinovich, "a whole bunch" of other Republicans are likely to make the same decision.

Dodd and Shelby have repeatedly said they were close to a deal, with agreement on most of the issues. However, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, who also has taken part in negotiations, said Tuesday he was "far less optimistic" that a deal would come anytime soon.

"I just know where they are, policy-wise, and I just don't see it," Corker said."I don't think anytime in the near future there's going to be a bipartisan agreement."

Republican leaders have identified their main concern as a Democratic plan to set up a consumer watchdog agency to protect against lending abuses such as unfair credit card charges and mortgage practices.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, contended earlier Tuesday that the consumer body would extend far beyond Wall Street to infiltrate daily transactions of all Americans.

Shelby headed to another negotiating session with Dodd after Tuesday's vote against starting debate on the bill. Asked whether Dodd is offering any flexibility on the consumer protection provision, Shelby said no.

"They've been pretty steadfast in their view of the consumer agency," Shelby said. "We think we have some constructive recommendations."

Dodd questioned the Republicans' sincerity, saying: "They don't want a consumer protection agency at all. Let's be honest about it."