Slowdown Spurs Finger-Pointing

Posted September 25, 2008 at 6:06pm

House Democratic leaders on Thursday night pointed the finger squarely at House Republicans for stalling progress on a $700 billion bailout package.

“They’re the only sticking point now,” a senior Democratic aide said. “Basically, they need to figure out what they want to do.”

As Congressional leaders and White House officials met this afternoon in the hopes of striking a deal on a bipartisan rescue package, House Republicans were distancing themselves from the high-level negotiations and unveiling their own proposals.

House Financial Services ranking member Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) issued a statement that ran counter to the unity displayed by Democratic leaders following this morning’s bipartisan, bicameral meeting on the bailout plan.

“I was not authorized by my colleagues to make any agreement on behalf of House Republicans. There was progress on many issues, but no agreement other than to continue discussions,” Bachus said.

Separately, leading House conservatives including Chief Deputy Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Republican Study Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) unveiled their own “economic rescue principles” and called for legislation that would require Wall Street to finance their own bailout.

A Democratic leadership aide said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson during Thursday’s White House meeting that he needs to bring GOP Members in line with the bailout package.

House Democrats could conceivably push through a bailout package without Republicans since it has enough support in the Senate and White House to become law.

But Pelosi “doesn’t want to do that. She wants a strong bipartisan vote,” the aide said.

Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois on Thursday night suggested that the decision of his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, to suspend his campaign and return to Washington is interfering with the effort to strike a Wall Street bailout deal.

Obama said Democrats, Republicans and the administration had agreed on principles and “were ready to move forward” before he and McCain returned to Washington.

“Something happened in the intervening hours,” said Obama, who spoke during an interview with CNN.

“When you start injecting presidential politics into delicate negotiations, then you can actually bring more problems rather than less,” Obama said. “It’s amazing how much you can get done when the cameras aren’t on and nobody’s looking to get credit or allocate blame. I think that both myself and Sen. McCain need to be very careful in terms of how we inject ourselves into this process.”

Obama said he is in constant contact with Congressional leaders about the legislation and talks to Paulson once or twice a day.

He added that he hopes McCain shows up for Friday evening’s scheduled debate.