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Conservatives Say They Are Players

House conservatives are feeling a renewed sense of relevance after a Friday morning Conference meeting.

Sources in the meeting said Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) received a standing ovation as he briefed Members on the state of play of the $700 billion bailout proposal.

There was “unanimous support for the leadership and the position they have taken,” the source said. “Not a single Member stood up to object” to GOP leadership efforts to have Wall Street finance part of its own bailout.

Another source said Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), a strong critic of the administration plan, praised leadership for insisting that free-market principles be part of the solution to the financial sector meltdown. He also said he was pleased that Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) is now at the table advocating these views.

Republican Policy Committee Chairman Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.) emerged from the meeting saying that GOP Members agree on one fundamental principle: Taxpayers “are not the first and only resort” to paying for the Wall Street bailout.

“When I say united, I mean united,” he said.

Despite being removed as the spokesman for House Republicans in the bicameral discussions on the bailout proposal, Financial Services ranking member Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) said he is “absolutely” still playing a role in negotiations.

“Most of the meetings include ranking members,” Bachus said. The only change is that Blunt will “act as Boehner’s representative.”

Bachus said he continues to advocate giving loans to Wall Street firms as opposed to spending taxpayer dollars outright. Administration officials agreed last night to consider this option, he said. Loans are a better option “because you get an interest rate.”

Asked how much he would support lending, Bachus replied, “As little as possible.”

Bachus said Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) significantly helped GOP Members by returning to the Hill this week because his message was that “House Republicans are relevant” and “we’re not going to roll the House Republicans.”

McCain has “turned the negotiations around” within 48 hours, he said.

Bachus said he told McCain early in the week that it would be helpful if he took part in negotiations on the rescue package. He told McCain that he felt like House Republicans were “losing control” and were about “to be stampeded” by Democrats and administration officials.

During Thursday’s meeting between White House officials and Congressional leaders, McCain offered support for principles backed by House Republicans and said “that’s the way we ought to go,” Bachus said.

But that was the point, Bachus said, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “started yelling at me.”

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