As of Sunday evening, the proposed legislation enabling the most massive federal intervention into the financial markets in history has been agreed to by negotiators representing the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and the Executive Branch.
The proposed legislation is available online here and will no doubt be studied feverishly in the next few hours as the House of Representatives is likely to vote on the measure Monday.
There is some reason for optimism. As Curt noted the new measure appears to be much less offensive to conservatives than previous proposals. House GOP whip Congressman Roy Blunt (R-MO)prepared this chart showing what progress was made in eliminating many of the offensive Christmas tree ornaments Democrats attempted to hang on this bill prior to the big White House meeting on Thursday.
How we got to this point is rather instructive to all those wish to evaluate the performance of the two presidential candidates in a time of crisis. Once again, conservatives were assured that John McCain is on their side.
Let's retrace our steps:
Early on Thursday morning it was reported that key members of the House and Senate had reached a deal in advance of the big White House Pow-Wow scheduled for that afternoon. However, House Republicans, whom Democrats counted on to join in a bipartisan effort, were not part of any deal and as they learned of the details in the Frank-Dodd-Paulson plan concern mounted that the agreement in it's current form was a disaster.
Phone calls protesting the deal had been flooding the House at an unprecedented rate, subjecting even Democrats to a barrage of protest from their constituents.
Writing in Saturday's Washington Post Jonathon Weisman reports that John McCain made a courtesy call to House Minority Leader John Boehner's office on Thursday prior to a luncheon with the Senate GOP members. When he arrived he was informed by GOP members who were present of their very strong opposition to the current bill.
McCain went to the Senate luncheon and dropped a bombshell. He informed his colleagues that "I'm not going to sign on to a deal just to sign the deal..."Just like Iraq, I'm not afraid to go it alone if I need to." According to Senator Lindsey Graham, a McCain confidante, "you could hear a pin drop" then pandemonium broke out as it became obvious that any idea of a deal was shattered.
Attention then shifted to the White House:
Obama bombs at White House meeting
Jonathon Karl, writing at ABC, has the inside story on what happened at the White House meeting Thursday afternoon:
President Bush opens the meeting at 4 p.m., quickly turning it over to Paulson who gives a status report on the markets and says, "We need to get this done quickly." Paulson turns it over to Pelosi, who defers to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, who defers to Sen. Barack Obama. Obama starts things off for the Democrats by reiterating his principles on what the plan should include. Obama agrees with Paulson on the need to act quickly but says some on the Hill "don't understand the need for the rush." Some of the Republicans took this as an attack on them.When it was McCain's turn to speak, he deferred instead to House Minority Leader Boehner who listed House GOP objections to the bill and later suggested alternatives such as federal insurance for mortgage securities instead of buying them outright.
At that point Obama chimed in again appealing to Treasury Secretary Paulson, a friend to Democrats, in an effort to undercut House GOP concerns.
McCain spoke again saying that House GOP concerns are: "legitimate concerns that need to be listened to."
Shortly after that the fireworks began as Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) (who must have thought he pulled one over on his House GOP colleagues with the earlier drafting of the bill) began shouting and accused Republicans of sandbagging" him.
ABC's Jonathon Karl describes what happened as the meeting broke up:
Democrats go back into the Roosevelt Room to discuss whether to go out to the cameras waiting on the White House driveway. Paulson comes in and literally begs them not to go out and criticize the meeting. For dramatic effect, Paulson gets down on one knee and says, "Please, I beg you, don't blow this up."Instead of rushing to the driveway to spew their venom, Democrats first coordinated their talking points, all aimed at blaming McCain. Later, Obama was up first:
Barney Frank, shouting, "Don't give me that bulls**t."
In interviews after the meeting, Obama pointed a finger at his rival for the faltering talks, saying on CNN that "when you start injecting presidential politics into delicate negotiations, you can actually inject more problems, rather than less."Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) used the similar phraseology in his attack:
"The insertion of presidential politics has not been helpful...It's been harmful. A few days ago, I called on Sen. McCain to take a stand, to let us know where he stands on the issue, on this bailout. But all he has done is stand in front of the cameras."Interesting that Reid accused McCain of grandstanding "in front of the cameras" when that is exactly what he, Obama and other Dems were doing despite Secretary Paulson's plea.
Dick Durbin (D-IL) the #2 Democrat in the Senate added:
McCain's decision to return would would bring the "charged political atmosphere" of presidential politics to Washington. "I'm not sure that will help create a positive, bipartisan or nonpartisan atmosphere to solve the problem," said Durbin, who added, "I think we need to do this in a thoughtful, quiet and sensible way."Pelosi: House GOP "Unpatriotic"
And speaking of that "bipartisan or nonpartisan atmosphere" necessary to solve the problem in a "thoughtful, quiet and sensible way" House Speaker Pelosi accused Republicans of being "unpatriotic" for skipping a meeting on the bailout that they were not even invited to.
McCain is the Man who Got Action
Weisman's article sums up the objectives of both McCain and Obama:
"McCain has been trying to help the House guys, trying to get their ideas into the broader bill," said a senior Republican Senate aide. "If McCain can do that, he can bring 50 to 100 House Republicans to the bill. That would be a big damn deal."If Democrats did succeed in forcing McCain to choose between House Republicans and President Bush McCain choose wisely. President Bush is effectively a lame duck and without the support of House Republicans John McCain cannot be elected President.
One Republican in the room said it was clear that the Democrats came into the meeting with a "game plan" aimed at forcing McCain to choose between the administration and House Republicans.
But more to the point, without McCain's action to stop the runaway freight train that the Obama-Dodd-Frank-Paulson bill had become, the bill might very well have failed to gain passage in the House causing further panic in world financial markets.
In an orchestrated attempt to showcase Obama's leadership ability,it's clear that instead, Obama only served to foster division by stoking the unease House GOP leaders felt over being pressured to sign off on what they knew was a bad bill. Weisman described Obama's participation at the White House meeting as a "hectoring performance" certainly not one designed to win over converts to the Democrat plan.
McCain's performance was much more presidential. Instead of doing all the talking, he LISTENED to what House GOP leaders were saying instead of trying to browbeat them into a bad agreement.
And in the end, McCain is motivated by lifelong principles dedicated to protecting the taxpayer from big government boondoggles which is exactly what the Democrat plan pushed at the White House had become.
If the current compromise passes, as many insist it must to avoid financial disaster, there will be only one man to thank: John McCain!