There are certain votes that I take more personally than others. I’ve never really gotten over or forgiven the Democrats who voted for the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (roll call). It comes down to votes that just flat-out screw the little guy. Democrats can differ over some moral questions, but taking the side of banks over people who have hit a rough patch? That’s unconscionable. Today’s vote doesn’t fall quite into the category of the bankruptcy bill, but it comes close. At issue is the fee that banks charge businesses when people use their debit cards to make purchases. Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Bob Corker of Tennessee teamed up to offer an amendment that would postpone the implementation of a new rule that will reduce the swipe fee from 44 cents to 12 cents.
Sen. Tester, who I generally like, claimed that his amendment wasn’t aimed at helping big banks but small ones that operate in his home state. Who can say how genuine his claim is? All that matters is the result. The banks make billions off this fee, and that money comes out of the bottom line of small businesses or results in higher prices for the consumer.
The vote appeared to be more about preventing implementation of elements of the Dodd-Frank Bill than about protecting small banks. Consider this:
The policy fight triggered the biggest K-Street battle of the year and may have helped Tester collect tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from banking interests.
Public fundraising records show Tester collected nearly $60,000 in contributions from credit card companies and other opponents to proposed caps on swipe fees in the 17 days following the introduction of his legislation.
You see how this works? Five years ago, we fought to help Tester win a primary against a Max Baucus-clone. And this is our reward.
You can probably guess which Democrats voted with Tester. Any Democrat who represents a state with credit-card companies or banking headquarters, plus a few random jackasses.
Democrats Voting for Banks
Akaka (D-HI), Baucus (D-MT), Begich (D-AK), Bennet (D-CO), Carper (D-DE, Coons (D-DE)
Corker (R-TN), Gillibrand (D-NY), Hagan (D-NC),
Johnson (D-SD), Manchin (D-WV), McCaskill (D-MO), Mikulski (D-MD), Nelson (D-FL), Nelson (D-NE), Schumer (D-NY),
Stabenow (D-MI), Tester (D-MT), Warner (D-VA), Webb (D-VA)
Lieberman didn’t vote, probably shortening his time in hell by a few days. I kind of understand in an abstract sense that states like South Dakota and Delaware are basically giant credit-card companies impersonating patches of land with borders, unique flags, and official birds and flowers. But I don’t care. Politicians should serve the people, not the people who employ the people. The banks and credit-card companies have been raping people for too long and it’s about time someone did something about it.
This amendment got 54 votes, but like everything in the Senate, it needed 60 to pass. The banks failed. But they only failed because a bunch of Republicans actually reached a level of shame they couldn’t go beyond and sided with their constituents.