Scott Brown Signs Finreg!

Rachel Maddow and I were both wrong about the strategic value to Scott Brown of a yes vote on H.R. 4173, along with Susan Collins (R-ME) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Russ Feingold (D-WI), DW-NOMINATE score -1.000, voted against the bill. I believe this is because his amendment to restore certain parts of the Glass-Steagal Act was voted down This leads us to one of the under-explored aspects of politics: Ego.

Without even preparing a normative standard by which we can judge the debated “liberality” of HR4173, I think it’s safe to assume that HR4173 puts financial regulation at a point on the policy spectrum closer to Feingold’s preferences than the status quo. It seems unlikely that if the bill outright failed it would make it back to serious re-negotiation any time soon – after all, that was kind of the point of the Sanders-Brown negotiations.

An interesting question to consider is whether Brown and Snowe’s public commitments to voting for the bill cost it Feingold’s vote. In a positive political theory sort of way, Feingold has virtually zero capacity to effect his colleagues’ policies. As the most liberal Senator, it is safe to guess that most new policies his colleagues propose – especially ones designed to alter policy laid down under Republican majority rule – will be closer to his personal preferences. So, ideologically speaking, even a finreg bill short the restoration of Glass-Steagal is still closer to what Feingold would get otherwise. But consider that Feingold did not vote against healthcare reform that lacked a public option, nor did he vote against the bailout bills passed under Barack Obama (though he did vote against his friend Pat Kennedy‘s bailout bill, proposed under George Bush).

My theory is this. Russ Feingold wanted a way to exercise his own preferences to the best of his ability, and knew he wouldn’t endanger the prospects of the bill even as he lodged his most powerful protest tool.


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