Pelosi and Reid Laud Bailout Bill

Posted September 28, 2008 at 6:21pm

The Democratic leaders of both the Senate and the House Sunday evening praised the massive $700 billion economic recovery package, but were publicly tight-lipped about its prospects for passage, even as it appeared increasingly likely that a sufficient number of House Republicans would ultimately support the legislation. With House Republicans still huddling to discuss the bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declined to comment on the bill’s chances of success. House Democrats secured the support of their fiscally conservative wing, the Blue Dogs, Sunday evening by requiring that financial institutions pay back any taxpayer dollars that have not been recouped from the bailout after five years. The provision is “a major, major change” to the plan and it was “met with much resistance” from Republicans and the White House, Pelosi said. Reid praised the bipartisan nature of the negotiations, as well as the participation of Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the two parties’ presidential nominees. “We’ve had input from both presidential candidates, and we appreciate that,” Reid said, adding that attention will now turn to rounding up enough votes to pass the bill. “Now it’s time to get the votes,” Reid said. Reid and Pelosi also used their press conference to warn that Congress will continue to scrutinize Wall Street and the administration’s handling of financial matters. “The era of golden parachutes for high-flying Wall Street executives is over,” Pelosi said. Reid agreed, warning that “there will be plenty of opportunities to assess who is to blame” and that Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) “will before the end of the year hold hearings.” Although there was no clear indication by early Sunday evening of how much House GOP support the proposal will garner, a senior House GOP aide said it now appears likely that enough Republicans will vote for the measure Monday to move it to the Senate. “If they ask us for a reasonable number of votes, we should be able to,” the aide said. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has not officially endorsed the bill, but Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) helped negotiate the deal and Boehner’s office Sunday began circulating documents highlighting the deal’s positive aspects. In the Senate, there has been much less of a problem selling the need for a bill, and GOP and Democratic leadership aides said that while the extreme wings of both parties will vote against the measure, it is expected that it will gather between 70 and 80 votes, equally divided between Republicans and Democrats. Although Reid was heavily involved in the talks — Pelosi credited him with helping get the final deal done shortly after midnight Sunday — Republican Senate leaders took a largely hands-off approach. But by Sunday afternoon, it appeared they would line up to help pass the measure. Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), for instance, called for a Monday vote on the bailout. “Congress should approve the amended plan without delay on Monday. Otherwise, there is a real risk that credit will freeze and Americans will not be able to get car, student, auto and mortgage loans or even to cash their paychecks,” Alexander said. Additionally, a GOP aide said that at this point it is unlikely that conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C) — a vocal critic of the bailout effort — will filibuster the bill and force a cloture vote, meaning a Senate vote could come move fairly quickly. Pelosi said the bill was “frozen” and is not open for changes and has been posted on the Internet. A senior GOP aide said shortly after the bill was posted online that high Internet traffic had crashed the House server and nobody could view it. “So much for openness and transparency,” quipped the aide. Blue Dog co-founder Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.) praised House leaders for including the “common-sense proposal” put forward by fiscal conservatives. “The American people deserve an insurance policy to know that in the long run, our investment of federal dollars will be recovered, and this provision fulfills that objective,” Tanner said. Other Democrats were pleased with the addition of the recoupment provision but suggested they would have voted for the bill without it. “We would like to be paid back,” Financial Services member Mel Watt (D-N.C.) said. But if that wasn’t going to happen in this bill, “future Congresses could come back and assess it anyway.”