WASHINGTON -- Even Cory Booker hates the Wall Street giveaway Congress approved over the weekend.
The Democratic senator from New Jersey has received scads of progressive disdain over the years for his close ties to financial elites. But Booker diverged from his typical rhetorical deference to Wall Street in a heated speech from the Senate floor on Thursday, blasting "very connected special interests" with "armies of high-paid lobbyists" for rolling back protections against risky trading "at the heart of the 2008 fiscal crisis."
"This is wrong," Booker said. "I'm outraged. I am frustrated that we are not on the floor debating this and instead are having this put into a bill that everyone says must pass."
Last week, House and Senate negotiators tucked a measure written by Citigroup lobbyists into a $1.1 trillion bill to fund most of the federal government for a year. The provision provides taxpayer subsidies to risky financial derivatives by allowing banks to trade them from subsidiaries insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. FDIC backing helps banks secure higher credit ratings for such derivatives, resulting in higher bank profits.
The Wall Street subsidy sparked outrage among progressive members of Congress, leading to a standoff between Democratic Party leaders that delayed a House vote on the package and nearly torpedoed it. President Barack Obama insisted that the deal was better than what Democrats could expect with a Republican-controlled Senate, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) called for shooting down the bill. Obama's veto power, some argued, could be used to prevent Republicans from crafting a bill more damaging to Democratic priorities next year -- a time when the GOP could face public pressure to govern pragmatically.
During the 2012 presidential contest, Booker declared himself "nauseated" by the Obama campaign's attacks on Mitt Romney's private equity record, and in the past he has downplayed the role of big banks in the 2008 crash.
Nevertheless, Booker sided squarely with the progressive wing of the party on the derivatives showdown, lambasting the bill on the Senate floor and voting against the bill alongside Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
"It does not take a Ph.D. in political science to figure out why common Americans of all backgrounds are frustrated with Congress," Booker said Thursday. "To many of the people watching this unfold in New Jersey ... what they're also seeing unfortunately is a bill packed with policies pushed by very connected special interests. Special interests with armies of high-paid lobbyists looking out for their own protections and looking to roll back common-sense protections for people who cannot hire those high-priced lobbyists or make donations to political candidates and elected officials."
"This provision is literally called the prohibition against the federal government bailouts of swap entities," Booker continued. "It looks to make sure that Americans aren't on the hook for the risky gambling of a few seeking to make extraordinary gains."
Watch Booker's speech above.