The American Benefits Council on Wednesday urged senators to approve an amendment to the financial reform bill that would remove a provision that pension industry officials contend would bar pension plans from using swaps.
Senate Democrats failed to get sufficient votes Wednesday afternoon to cut off debate on the bill, which would strengthen regulation of Wall Street.
Pension industry executives said it was unclear whether the amendment to delete the swaps provision, proposed by Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Robert Casey, D-Pa., would be included in the final legislative package.
“The Harkin-Casey amendment would address our concerns,” James Klein, ABC president, wrote in a letter to senators.
“We're afraid it's not going to be included,” said Michael Griffith, a legislative analyst for the Committee on Investment of Employee Benefit Assets.
The Senate fell short of the 60-vote threshold needed to proceed to final action on the measure, throwing into doubt the strategy of Senate Democrats to pass the bill this week and send it to be reconciled with House legislation passed in December.
Democrats, who hold a 59-41 majority in the Senate, won over the two Maine Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Two Democrats, Maria Cantwell of Washington and Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, voted against ending debate.
“I would hope that we can move forward on this,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “We've got to finish this legislation.”
The regulatory bill offered by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., would overhaul rules for hedge funds and derivatives, create a consumer financial protection bureau at the Federal Reserve, and create a mechanism for dissolving failed financial firms whose collapse would roil the economy.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., earlier urged party members to vote against ending debate.
“Not only does the bill still contain a massive new government agency with broad new powers over consumer spending and Main Street businesses, it does nothing, nothing as I indicated, to rein in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the main protagonists in the financial meltdown,” Mr. McConnell said Wednesday on the Senate floor.
If approved, the Senate bill would have to be merged with a bill approved in December by the House of Representatives before President Barack Obama can sign it into law.
Bloomberg contributed to this story,