Bush Confident Financial Deal Can Be Reached
At the Capitol on Friday, meetings continued behind closed doors to try to salvage the Bush administration's $700 billion bailout proposal. Opposition from House Republicans on Thursday had threatened to derail negotiations.
Those Republicans are at the bargaining table, and like a coach trying to rally his team at halftime, President Bush delivered a brief pep talk Friday, seemingly aimed at both Congress and the shaken markets.
"The legislative process is sometimes not very pretty, but we are going to get a package passed," Bush said. "We will rise to the occasion."
A response came on the Senate floor from one of the biggest champions of a financial rescue package, New York Democrat Charles Schumer.
"The president must get his Republican house in order by getting the House Republicans in line and asking Sen. McCain respectfully to leave town, because without Republican cooperation, we cannot pass this bill," Schumer said.
Democrats blamed both House Republicans and McCain's appearance at the Capitol on Thursday for derailing what had been touted as a deal on a bailout. They also skewered House Republican leader John Boehner for taking a competing proposal to the White House.
On Friday, Boehner came to his own defense. "I don't know what games were being played at the White House yesterday, ganging up on Boehner, but if they thought they were rolling me, they were kidding themselves," he said.
House Republicans were nonetheless more conciliatory on Friday. Roy Blunt, the party's No. 2 in the House, said he was joining bipartisan, bicameral talks to get a deal.
"We're going into these negotiations with every intention of having a real negotiation, of having a bill that House Republicans can vote for in solving this problem, and solving this as quickly as we can," he said.
New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg said it's clear why negotiations got back on track Friday:
"I think anybody who got up this morning and looked at the markets — especially the credit markets — had to take a deep breath and say this is so serious we better do something," he said.
House Republicans are proposing both tax breaks and a privately funded mortgage insurance program as an alternative to a bailout. That got a thumbs down from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"Secretary Paulson has said that their proposal dealing with the insurance won't work," Reid said. "Now, whether he's going to say that publicly, you'll have to ask him, but that's what he's told us — it won't work."
Still, Reid said Congress could have a deal to vote on Sunday or Monday.
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