Saturday, September 27, 2008

House GOP Still Balking at Bailout Plan as Talks Continue

House Republicans on Saturday held steadfast in their opposition to the $700 billion bailout proposal being considered in Congress, saying that it would be too costly for taxpayers.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters at the Capitol that his members will not agree to a bill “that bails out Wall Street at the expense of American taxpayers.”

"Somebody, maybe it was Einstein, said things should be done as quickly as possible, but no quicker than possible," Republican Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told the reporters. "We're not moving on any kind of artificial timeline. We're moving toward the very best solution in the shortest period of time."

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he hoped a framework for an agreement could be in place before 6 p.m. Sunday Eastern, before the markets open in Asia for Monday's trading.

"The goal is to come up with a final agreement by tomorrow," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said from the floor of the Senate. "We may not be able to do that, but we're trying very hard."

The Wall Street Journal's Corey Boles and Michael R. Crittenden reported this afternoon that there were signs that lawmakers and the Treasury Department remain divided on how the $700 billion authority to buy up toxic assets will be meted out.
Lawmakers want Treasury to receive the authority in tranches, receiving $250 billion immediately and another $100 billion if needed as certified by the president. The remaining $350 billion would be subject to a congressional vote, giving lawmakers the opportunity to vote to rescind the funds.

But a Senate aide familiar with the discussions said Treasury is pushing for a larger initial authority, likely around $500 billion.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) returned to Washington after his presidential debate with Sen. Barack Obama (R-Ill.) in Mississippi last night. His campaign office told Politico that Republicans want McCain's participation in the process to be seen by the public in a better light.

Patrick O'Connor of Politico writes this afternoon:
The latest House GOP posturing comes amid a Republican effort to ensure John McCain is credited with whatever progress is made in the talks.

McCain arrived back in Washington just before dawn Saturday, and his campaign said he planned to “resume negotiations with the administration and Congressional leaders from both parties to forge a bipartisan solution to our economic crisis.”

Republicans are clearly worried that their presidential candidate’s first effort to engage in the bailout negotiations didn’t come off as well as they might have hoped – that in the public’s mind, a deal was close until McCain parachuted in, a White House meeting collapsed and McCain left for the debate in Mississippi with the various factions farther from a deal than they’d been before.

House Republicans are now trying hard to recast those events.

What actually happened, they say: By not taking a stand on the modified version of the Treasury Plan that Democrats, Senate Republicans and the White House seemed nearly ready to support, McCain gave House Republican the time they needed to force a better deal for taxpayers and homeowners alike.

During a brief session in the Capitol on Friday, McCain reminded a small band of Republican leaders that he had given them a political opening in the landmark legislative fight.

According to people present, McCain then told his congressional colleagues, “Now, go get something.”

O'Connor also delves into the political maneuvering earlier in the week that seemed to put an agreement on hold:
While McCain greeted his top allies on Capitol Hill, lawmakers were working toward a compromise deal in a bipartisan, bicameral meeting. When that meeting ended, both Dodd, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and Bennett said that negotiators had agreed on a plan that could pass both houses of Congress and be signed by the president.

Gregg, a Republican from New Hampshire, told Politico Friday that the compromise wouldn’t have come together so quickly if Democrats didn’t know that McCain was on his way. “We wouldn’t have had as much movement [Thursday] as we did have, if he hadn’t come to town and some of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle wanted to upstage him,” Gregg said.

With the deal struck, Republicans in the House believed that the trap was set, not so much for McCain as for their own leader, Boehner.

As House Republicans saw it, Democrats and the White House were close to a deal and just needed McCain to sign on so they could roll Boehner under the bus and claim a bipartisan victory.

... But if the Democrats and the White House were ready for a game of “ganging up on Boehner” – as the minority leader said later – McCain didn’t play along.

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