Senators pledge allegiance to Main Street in battle over financial regulation

— There was a lot of talk in the Senate Wednesday about roads. But the topic wasn’t transportation.

“This is the showdown, Main Street versus Wall Street,” Heather Booth, director of Americans for Financial Reform, shouted during a morning news conference in support of Democratic legislation to reform and regulate banks and financial markets.

Sen. Jeff Merkley urged support Wednesday for financial regulation that would provide tougher oversight of Wall Street while protecting consumers and businesses.

“Back home in Oregon, folks on Main Street are saying we lost our savings for our children’s education, we lost our retirment savings,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said moments after Booth turned over a lectern with a sign that promised, “Holding Wall Street Accountable. “They’re saying do something about Wall Street. And Wall Street is saying, `leave us alone.”’

(At a second Democratic press conference later in the day in the same room, the sign was changed to read: “Standing Up For Main Street.”)

Later in the day, at a Republican press conference, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. insisted, “We don’t represent Wall Street. I can tell you Wall Street won’t be writing this bill.”

This fixation with two streets was the central theme Wednesday as the Senate edged ever closer to bringing to the floor a complex and far-reaching bill to regulate banks and financial institutions.

Merkley was especially direct on the difference between the two streets during a morning news conference with Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, church and labor leaders and others who are pressing for a tough bill:

“Folks back home are saying, `No more taxpayer financed bailouts. Pass this bill.’ Folks on Wall Street are saying, `We like the status quo just fine, thank you.”’