Reid Confident Senate Will Release Bailout Money

Posted January 13, 2009 at 2:15pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he is “confident” that he has the votes to beat back a GOP-led attempt to deny President-elect Barack Obama the remaining $350 billion in Wall Street bailout funds.

Emerging from a Senate Democratic Conference meeting at which Obama made a personal plea for the funds, Reid said, “I think we will get the necessary votes, yes.”

Reid said the vote would occur before Sunday. Aides have said it could come Thursday.

Democratic Senators appeared less certain of their support but said Obama embraced Congressional efforts to ensure greater oversight and accountability of the program. Many lawmakers believe the Bush administration has mismanaged the first installment of $350 billion.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said that she was not completely certain how she would vote on the resolution of disapproval, but that Obama, as the closer on the deal, made a powerful case.

“I think he did a lot of closing today … I would say there is no better closer,” Stabenow said.

Senate Democrats said they want more details on how an Obama administration would oversee the program differently from Bush. But they added that they do not expect any more specifics from Obama’s economic advisers, other than a broadly written letter penned Monday by Lawrence Summers, Obama’s pick to head his National Economic Council.

Still, Stabenow said Obama embraced the rigorous oversight that would be required under a bill written by House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.). The measure is currently making its way through that chamber.

Senate Republicans were less impressed with Summers’ assurances that Obama would change the way the program is run.

“I think many of my Members think Summers’ letter is not enough to get their support,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), adding that Obama “wants very much to have Republican support, [and] I’m suggesting a way to do that is more specificity at how this money will be targeted.”

Jessica Brady contributed to this report.