Friday, September 26, 2008

Bush to Comment on Market Crisis at 9:35 a.m.

President Bush is expected to make comments from the White House concerning the crisis on Wall Street just one day after a meeting of Washington's top power-brokers collapsed into a partisan food fight.

The expectation is that the president will start a public arm-twisting of House Republicans to get this deal done. Those GOP congressman, who already face a difficult election cycle, are hearing loud and clear from their districts that voters do not want this deal.

Markets all across the globe were down sharply Friday. Dow futures before the opening bell were off about 150 points. The political nightmare came as the collapse of Washington Mutual Inc. — the largest bank failure in U.S. history — gave Wall Street more bad news.

Wall Street wants to hear that Washington has started on a road toward a plan. It doesn't need to have a plan in place today. It just needs a sense of hope. If the partisan chaos continues in Washington, and there seems to be no hope of a compromise, the markets might collapse in numbers we have not seen since the Great Depression.

Sue Kirchhoff and Ken Dilanian of USA TODAY wrote on Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson interrupting a Democratic huddle after the White House meeting:
At one point during the meeting, Bush said that without fast action to help the financial industry, "this sucker could go down."

The stakes of the meeting were evident after it broke up, when Democrats were huddled for a post-meeting conference in the White House's Roosevelt Room. Two sources with knowledge of the situation but not allowed to speak of it publicly said there was a knock on the door and Paulson, who helped devise the administration's plan, asked to come in.

Paulson then pleaded with the Democrats not to blow up the deal by criticizing the House Republicans. The Democrats countered that they had been working with Paulson all week amid criticism of the plan from their own party and constituents.

Paulson repeated his plea that they not do anything that would spook the financial markets Friday morning and genuflected in front of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

"I didn't know you were Catholic," the speaker quipped.

The New York Times had this account:

In the Roosevelt Room after the session, the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., literally bent down on one knee as he pleaded with Ms. Pelosi not to “blow it up” by withdrawing her party’s support for the package over what Ms. Pelosi derided as a Republican betrayal.

“I didn’t know you were Catholic,” Ms. Pelosi said, a wry reference to Mr. Paulson’s kneeling, according to someone who observed the exchange. She went on: “It’s not me blowing this up, it’s the Republicans.”

Mr. Paulson sighed. “I know. I know.”

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass), who was inside the meeting, told The Associated Press that he did not think that Democrats were going to see a substantially different proposal from the plan the administration has been trying to sell to lawmakers and which had been the focal point of closed-door talks for days. "It's an ambush plan," he said.

Meeting articipants said the atmosphere descended into arguments.

"I didn't know I was going to be the referee for an internal GOP ideological civil war," Frank, D-Mass., said on CBS's "The Early Show."

Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican who appeared on the same show, said many GOP lawmakers dislike the proposal that has been pushed on the administration's behalf principally by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

"Basically, I believe the Paulson proposal is badly structured," Shelby said. "It does nothing basically for the stressed mortgage payer. It does a lot for three or four or five banks . ... "

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