For the third time in as many days, Republicans voted to block debate from starting on a regulatory reform bill.
The vote, 56 to 42, fell short of the 60 necessary for Democrats to overcome a filibuster threat.
As with the two previous votes, Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska joined Republicans in opposing the cloture motion.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd and Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Republican negotiator, continue to work on a bipartisan deal. Shelby said Tuesday that the two had agreed on language designed to end "too big to fail" banks, and suggested that the Democrats would drop a proposed $50 billion fund.
But the Republicans have now moved on to other issues, with GOP leaders citing concerns with provisions to regulate derivatives and enhance consumer protection. They argue the proposed consumer protection division would have broad power over any consumer credit offering, even those outside financial services, and that the derivatives bill would effectively prevent a candy company from hedging the risk of sugar price fluctuations.
Democrats threatened to continue to force votes to debate the bill until Republicans are worn down. Dodd said at a press conference Wednesday, where he was joined by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, that remaining issues would need to be worked out on the floor and acknowledged that lawmakers of both parties are seeking changes to the bill.
Dodd rejected GOP criticism of the consumer protection division, noting that it only has power over companies that "regularly extend credit" and the credit is subject to a finance charge or payable in four or more installments. The bill said that the division would not cover retailers or merchants that are "not engaged significantly in offering or providing consumer financial products or services."