Democrats and Republicans are headed toward a major political showdown on financial regulation.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced he no longer wants to wait for bipartisan agreement on a sweeping reform bill the GOP opposes and has scheduled a vote on Monday that will determine whether the Senate can start debate.
If Republicans, "are willing to go forward with reform, that's what we'll do," Reid said. "But I'm not going to waste any more time of the American people until they come up with some agreement."
With 60 votes needed to begin debate, Democrats, with just 59 votes, need one Republican and they are not optimistic the two parties can strike a deal by the time the roll is called late Monday.
"There have been a lot of good vibrations and a lot of representations made to the public and the media, but so far I don't think there has been any real substantive progress between them," Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said, in reference to ongoing negotiations between the bill's author, Senate banking committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and the panel's top Republican, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.
Republicans are equally pessimistic.
Shelby is advising Republicans to vote against beginning debate on the bill in its current form.
When asked whether the two parties can come to an agreement in time for Monday's vote, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who has knowledge of the negotiations, told the Washington Examiner, "I doubt it. I don't know if they'll make that much progress by then."
Reid's move cost him the backing of at least one moderate Republican.
"I don't think it's a sufficient amount of time to reach an agreement so I will vote against proceeding," Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine said.
By scheduling the vote, Reid has engaged in a high-stakes game of political chicken, daring Republicans to vote against a bill that Democrats believe has wide populist appeal.
Democrats say polling by the White House and others that has not been made public shows public support for the bill in the 70 percent range, although public polling has shown less enthusiasm.
"We're in the catbird seat," Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said. "They are coming to us. They are going to try to make some face saving deal, that's my view."
Republicans do not know whether any of their more moderate members will cross the aisle and vote to begin debate on the bill.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said "it's hard for me to imagine," a deal by Monday that would earn a Republican vote. "This is a big, important, complex bill and our sense is Senator Reid is trying to jam us," Cornyn said.
If Democrats can't get the needed 60 votes, they are planning to use the loss as a political weapon.
Durbin suggested that Democrats could throw in the towel on financial reform if Republicans succeed in blocking it.
"They have to understand that it is a distinct possibility that they will then be on the record, permanently, against Wall Street reform," Durbin said.