The American public is largely opposed to the bailout. By fighting it the house Republicans and McCain buy themselves separation from the whole fiasco and the Bush administration, and thereby gain a leg to stand on in November politically. Studly closely the non engagement demonstrated by the opposition. McCain rushed back to Washington to sit mum in the 'meeting' and then meet in secret with the house minority. The plan the Republican law makers laid out in brief sounds promising in principal. Why won't they present it in a timely way on it's own merits?
— The day began with an agreement that Washington hoped would end the financial crisis that has gripped the nation. It dissolved into a verbal brawl in the Cabinet Room of the White House, urgent warnings from the president and pleas from a Treasury secretary who knelt before the House speaker and appealed for her support.
“If money isn’t loosened up, this sucker could go down,” President Bush declared Thursday as he watched the $700 billion bailout package fall apart before his eyes, according to one person in the room.
It was an implosion that spilled out from behind closed doors into public view in a way rarely seen in Washington. Left uncertain was the fate of the bailout, which the White House says is urgently needed to fix broken financial and credit markets, as well as whether the first presidential debate would go forward as planned Friday night in Mississippi.
When Congressional leaders and Senators John McCain and Barack Obama, the two major party presidential candidates, trooped to the White House Thursday afternoon, all signs pointed toward a bipartisan agreement on a grand compromise that could be accepted by all sides and signed into law by the weekend. It was to have pumped billions of dollars into the financial system and transformed the way Wall Street is regulated.
“We’re in a serious economic crisis,” Mr. Bush told reporters as the meeting began shortly before 4 p.m. in the Cabinet Room, adding, “My hope is we can reach an agreement very shortly.”
But once the doors closed, the smooth-talking House Republican leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, surprised many in the room by declaring that his caucus could not support the plan to allow the government to buy distressed mortgage assets from ailing financial companies.
Mr. Boehner pressed an alternative that involved a smaller role for the government, and Mr. McCain, whose support of the deal is critical if fellow Republicans are to sign on, declined to take a stand.
The talks broke up in angry recriminations, according to accounts provided by a participant and others who were briefed on the session, and were followed by dueling press conferences and interviews rife with partisan finger-pointing.
In the Roosevelt Room after the session, the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr. literally bent down on one knee as he pleaded with Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, 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.”
It was the very outcome the White House had said it intended to avoid, with partisan presidential politics appearing to trample what had been exceedingly delicate Congressional negotiations.
Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and chairman of the Senate banking committee, denounced the session as “a rescue plan for John McCain” in an interview on CNN, and proclaimed it a waste of precious hours that could have been spent negotiating.
But a top aide to Mr. Boehner said it was Democrats who had done the political posturing. The aide, Kevin Smith, said Republicans revolted, in part, because they were chafing at what they saw as an attempt by Democrats to jam through an agreement on the bailout early Thursday and deny Mr. McCain an opportunity to participate in the agreement.
The day seemed to hold promise as it began. On Wednesday night, Mr. Bush had delivered a prime-time televised address to the nation, warning that ‘’our country could experience a long and painful recession” if lawmakers did not act quickly to pass a huge Wall Street bailout plan.
After spending Thursday morning behind closed doors, senior lawmakers from both parties emerged at noon in the ornate painted corridors on the first floor of the Capitol to herald their agreement on the broad outlines of a deal.
They said the legislation, which would authorize unprecedented government intervention to buy distressed debt from private firms, would include limits on pay packages for executives of some firms that seek assistance and a mechanism for the government to take an equity stake in some of the firms, so taxpayers have a chance to profit if the bailout plan works.
“I now expect we will indeed have a plan that can pass the House, pass the Senate, be signed by the president, and bring a sense of certainty to this crisis that is still roiling in the markets,” said Robert F. Bennett, Republican of Utah, a senior member of the banking committee. He made a point of describing that meeting as free of political maneuvering. “It was one of the most productive sessions in that regard that I have participated in since I have been in the Senate,” Mr. Bennett said.