* Obama may win crackdown on Wall Street
* May get a few more major 2010 victories
* Tough to find much common ground before election day
By Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON, April 23 The U.S. Senate is
moving toward tightening regulation of the financial industry,
which if it becomes law would give President Barack Obama a big
victory in Congress after his healthcare overhaul in March.
But chances are slim that lawmakers will pass much other
major legislation before the November congressional elections.
With Democrats and Republicans jockeying for position, it
is going to be tough to find much common ground on matters from
immigration to deficit reduction to climate change.
Here's a look at what Congress faces before Election Day --
and what it may actually do.
While there was a solid wall of Republican opposition to
Obama's healthcare overhaul, at least a few members of the
minority are expected to support legislation to toughen
regulation of the financial industry.
A measure of this will come as early as on Monday at a
procedural vote in the Senate on whether to begin debate on the
reform, aimed at curbing Wall Street excesses.
Politicians, particularly in an election year, do not want
to be seen as defending Wall Street, blamed by many for
triggering the financial crisis.
Ethan Siegal of The Washington Exchange, a private firm
that tracks Congress and the White House for institutional
investors, said he has raised chances for passage of financial
reform before lawmakers' August recess from 50-50 to 60-40.
"We would be higher except that the 'Big Picture Campaign
2010' political dynamic for the congressional Republicans is at
its core a strategy to oppose and defeat all major Democratic
Party policy initiatives in order to make President Obama and
the congressional Democrats look weak and incapable of
governing," Siegal wrote to clients.
If history is any indication, chances are strong the Senate
will confirm Obama's nominee, not yet named, to replace
retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, a liberal.
According to the Senate historian's office, there have been
159 Supreme Court nominations since creation of the high court
more than two centuries ago, and 123 have been confirmed.
Obama has said he will announce his nominee by the end of
May. He said his pick must back women's rights but would not
have to pass a "litmus test" on abortion rights.
To avoid a brawl with Republicans, the nominee is unlikely
to be as liberal as Stevens, 90, one of the oldest and longest
serving justices ever.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, who
will preside over the confirmation hearing, told Reuters
earlier this month he was confident any of the potential picks
Obama was then considering would be confirmed.
Democrats control 59 of 100 Senate seats. Republicans could
raise a procedural roadblock that would take 60 votes to clear.
They haven't ruled out such a move, but say it is unlikely.
U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan and U.S. appeals court
judges Merrick Garland and Diane Wood are among those most
often mentioned as possible nominees.
The odds are against Congress approving comprehensive
legislation this year to battle global warming.
But that is not stopping Senators John Kerry, a Democrat,
Lindsey Graham, a Republican, and Joseph Lieberman, an
independent, from trying to craft such a measure. They are
expected to unveil a possible compromise as early as on
Their goal is to bring the United States into a global
effort to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases
blamed for global warming.
The challenges the energy/environment bill face are huge:
There is not much time for the Senate to debate and pass such a
wide-ranging bill amid a busy agenda; senators running for
re-election this year do not want to vote on a measure that
would raise energy prices; there are big disagreements among
senators on the best approaches.
Well aware their own jobs are on the line, Democrats intend
to keep pushing legislation to reduce the 9.7 percent U.S.
Democrats have won bipartisan passage of a number of
incremental job-creation bills. But they do not have the
support for major legislation, which critics would denounce as
more "big government" spending that would add to the record
Obama is under pressure to keep a campaign promise to
revamp the U.S. immigration system.
But figuring out a way to tighten border security while
providing some path to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrants
may be too hot to handle before the election.
Democratic Senator Charles Schumer and Republican Lindsey
Graham have sought to craft a deal that could draw broad
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to push ahead
with immigration reform. But Graham says the Senate isn't ready
for it. He accused the Nevada Democrat of trying to placate
Hispanic voters before the November elections.
Democrats and Republicans agree the federal deficit needs
to be cut, but to do it would likely require the will to raise
taxes and reduce spending.
No such political courage, at least not enough to win
congressional approval, is expected before Election Day.
Obama and fellow Democrats in Congress denounced the
Supreme Court ruling this year that allows corporations and
unions to spend unlimited amounts of money for and against
With the backing of the White House, Democrats in the House
and Senate plan to introduce legislation as early as on Monday
that would require greater transparency and disclosure of
contributions and require the heads of organizations to
declare they approved the ad in the same way candidates must.
But with Congress busy on other fronts, there is little
chance it would have time to pass such legislation this year.
Prospects may be better next year -- provided Democrats can
drum up needed support from Republicans to clear possible
Senate procedural roadblocks.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday will
hold the first of what promises to be a series of hearings on
the new START nuclear arms reduction.
Ratification of the pact between the United States and
Russia could take months. But supporters are confident the
treaty, which requires 67 votes to be ratified by the Senate,
will win approval.
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Andy Sullivan and
Susan Cornwell; editing by Vicki Allen)