By Jacob Goldstein
The Senate just voted to end debate on its big finance-reform bill.
The key switch from yesterday -- when a vote to cut off debate failed -- was Republican Sen. Scott Brown, from Massachusetts.
Brown was concerned that provisions in the bill related to financial firms' investments could harm the mutual fund and insurance industries, which have a large presence in his home state. Harry Reid reportedly assured Brown that those industries would be exempted from certain rules in the bill.
The two Democrats who voted against cutting off debate yesterday because they thought the bill did not do enough to rein in the finance industry voted no again today.
A final vote on the bill could come as soon as tonight. But some substantive issues remain unresolved.
Before the final vote, the Senate is expected to vote on an amendment, proposed by Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, that would exempt auto dealers from the consumer finance agency created by the bill.
There is also likely to be a vote on second amendment, from Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Jeff Merkley, that would ban banks from proprietary trading and from owning hedge funds or private-equity funds.
But because of some odd procedural rules (explained here), the Merkley-Levin amendment can only make it into the final bill if the Brownback amendment is approved.
That sets up a conflict for those senators (mainly Democrats) who support the Merkley-Levin amendment but oppose the Brownback amendment.
What's more, Sen. Chris Dodd could also make some changes to the bill in the "manager's amendment," which is the version of a bill that's introduced just before the final vote. The manager's amendment is supposed to be limited to technical fixes, but sometimes includes substantive changes.