With a gun to their heads, Republicans and Democrats will huddle today to forge a compromise on the $700 billion bailout for Wall Street.
Democrats told various reporters that they are hopeful that the nuts and bolts of such a plan can be worked out in the White House this afternoon, as Sens. Barack Obama, John McCain and othe congressional leaders meet. But the Associated Press is reporting that there is stll skeptics on both side of the aisle:
"It's a tough sell to most of our members," said Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., after a closed-door meeting with Paulson and Bernanke. "It's a terrible plan, but I haven't heard anything better."
"They sold the war, they sold the stimulus package and some other things. It's the 'wolf at the door'" argument, said Davis, who is retiring at the end of the year.
If Republicans weren't exactly clamoring for Bush to show them the way, Democrats insisted the president step up, for reasons of their own.
"It is time for him to explain why his administration sat on its hands for months and only now has come to realize the need for immediate and unprecedented government action," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
"It is time for him to explain how he could tell our country for months that our economy was fine, yet overnight declare that if American taxpayers don't accept his bailout bill, our country will face an economic disaster."
Translation: Neither Reid nor House Speaker Nancy Pelosi intended to put their rank and file in the position of voting for legislation that Republicans could oppose and then use as a campaign issue against them. But if many Republicans were planning to vote for the measure eventually, they were quiet about it on Wednesday.
Greg Hitt, Deborah Solomon and Damian Paletta of The Wall Street Journal write this morning:
Democratic leaders hope to nail down details of the measure early Thursday, ahead of an extraordinary summit meeting in the afternoon at the White House, which will bring together Republican and Democratic presidential nominees, along with Mr. Bush and top leaders from Congress.
Much is still uncertain and the contours of a likely bill could change. But the outlines of a potential compromise began to emerge late Wednesday after congressional leaders started considering restrictions on the bailout plan that could break the pool of money into installments.
A likely bill would include limits on executive pay in situations where the government puts a large amount of money into a failing institution. In certain cases, the government could receive warrants that would give it the right to acquire shares in the company. Also included is beefed-up oversight through the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress.