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Old 09-25-2008, 07:23 PM   Topic Starter
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Bailout talks close, then McCain arrives and now they've stalled

McCain: gets things undone.

Blame Game Begins as Bailout Proposal Fizzles
Susan Davis reports on Congress.

President Bush, second from right, meets with John McCain, far left, and Barack Obama, far right, and congressional leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Thursday. (AP)

Congressional Democratic leaders wasted no time pointing the blame at House Republicans and in particular Republican presidential candidate John McCain after a tentative deal on the $700 billion financial sector bailout proposal blew up following an afternoon meeting at the White House.

“I would suggest that anyone in that meeting who tried to understand what John McCain said at that meeting, couldn’t,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada told reporters Thursday evening.

McCain suspended his campaign to return to Washington D.C. to take part in negotiations on the bailout. Barack Obama also returned after President Bush requested he attend today’s meeting. Reid suggested McCain’s return injected politics in to the negotiations. McCain was the last one to speak at the White House meeting, Reid said, and he “didn’t say anything substantive.”

“John McCain did nothing to help, he only hurt the process,” Reid said, further chastising McCain for calling for a delay in Friday’s presidential debate in Mississippi. “We should not let this little effort to avoid participating in the debates sidetrack this most important issue,” Reid said.

Growing resistance among House Republicans played a greater role in stalling negotiations, as a faction of GOP lawmakers released principles for a competing bailout proposal as it became increasingly clear that the tentative agreement did not have broad support in the House Republican Conference. One House Republican aide estimated that no more than 45 House Republicans would support the current proposal.

Key negotiators expressed surprise at the counter proposal. Reid said he was “stunned” by House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio who had previously expressed his support for passing a bipartisan plan.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she does not want to bring a bill to the floor without a significant number of House Republicans on board. Democrats are not keen to take political ownership of a Bush administration proposal less than six weeks before Election Day.

“If it’s going to pass, it needs to be bipartisan,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland told reporters, adding that he has “confidence” that Boehner is working to that end. “I hope that his Conference will cooperate in that effort.” Hoyer declined to say how many House Republicans would have to be on board for Democrats to bring the measure to the floor.

Reid said negotiations will begin again at 8:00pm/ET tonight. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke were headed back to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers. Reid said he asked Paulson to “do what he can” to get House Republicans on board.

“It’s all very fuzzy to us, we don’t know where we are,” House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank told reporters on the status of negotiations. Frank also suggested McCain’s return to Capitol Hill hurt negotiations.

“Sen. McCain has not been involved in this,” Frank said, noting the Arizona senator does not sit on any committees of jurisdiction and did not take place in earlier negotiations. “I think this was a campaign ploy by Sen. McCain,” he said, “He slowed it down. I don’t know if he caused it or what.” Echoing Reid, Frank said McCain should participate in Friday’s presidential debate, adding that if he doesn’t it’s “only because he doesn’t want to.”

UPDATE: “As far as I know Sen. McCain has not endorsed this plan. This is not a product of his campaign,” Virginia Republican Rep. Eric Cantor told reporters tonight. Cantor is leading the coalition of House Republicans who devised the competing plan with the consent of Boehner; he took issue with characterizations that Republicans surprised negotiators with their proposal.

“We’ve been talking about this plan for at least two days,” he said. Cantor defended McCain’s decision to return to Washington for “trying to affect the change needed” to get a bill done. “I applaud him in coming back and making sure that as a senator he is here to do that,” he said.
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