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How the Bailout deal unraveled yesterday

The NY Times has a story on how yesterday’s bailout deal failed. This is an insider’s tale with blow by blow detail. It is a fascinating view into how the U.S. conducts government policy. Below is a snippet from the post and a link to the full story.

One interesting facet in the matter was the contention by Democrats that House Republicans did not want the Democrats to jam through a proposal in which Senator McCain would not have a prominent role.

The saga continues.


The day began with an agreement that Washington hoped would end the financial crisis that has gripped the nation. It dissolved into a verbal brawl in the Cabinet Room of the White House, urgent warnings from the president and pleas from a Treasury secretary who knelt before the House speaker and appealed for her support.

“If money isn’t loosened up, this sucker could go down,” President Bush declared Thursday as he watched the $700 billion bailout package fall apart before his eyes, according to one person in the room.

It was an implosion that spilled out from behind closed doors into public view in a way rarely seen in Washington.

By 10:30 p.m., after another round of talks, Congressional negotiators gave up for the night and said they would try again on Friday. Left uncertain was the fate of the bailout, which the White House says is urgently needed to fix broken financial and credit markets, as well as whether the first presidential debate would go forward as planned Friday night in Mississippi.

When Congressional leaders and Senators John McCain and Barack Obama, the two major party presidential candidates, trooped to the White House on Thursday afternoon, most signs pointed toward a bipartisan agreement on a grand compromise that could be accepted by all sides and signed into law by the weekend. It was intended to pump billions of dollars into the financial system, restoring liquidity and keeping credit flowing to businesses and consumers.

“We’re in a serious economic crisis,” Mr. Bush told reporters as the meeting began shortly before 4 p.m. in the Cabinet Room, adding, “My hope is we can reach an agreement very shortly.”

But once the doors closed, the smooth-talking House Republican leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, surprised many in the room by declaring that his caucus could not support the plan to allow the government to buy distressed mortgage assets from ailing financial companies.

Mr. Boehner pressed an alternative that involved a smaller role for the government, and Mr. McCain, whose support of the deal is critical if fellow Republicans are to sign on, declined to take a stand.

The talks broke up in angry recriminations, according to accounts provided by a participant and others who were briefed on the session, and were followed by dueling news conferences and interviews rife with partisan finger-pointing.

Friday morning, on CBS’s “The Early Show,” Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the lead Democratic negotiator, said the bailout had been derailed by internal Republican politics.

“I didn’t know I was going to be the referee for an internal G.O.P. ideological civil war,” Mr. Frank said, according to The A.P.Thursday, in the Roosevelt Room after the session, the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., literally bent down on one knee as he pleaded with Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, not to “blow it up” by withdrawing her party’s support for the package over what Ms. Pelosi derided as a Republican betrayal.

“I didn’t know you were Catholic,” Ms. Pelosi said, a wry reference to Mr. Paulson’s kneeling, according to someone who observed the exchange. She went on: “It’s not me blowing this up, it’s the Republicans.”

Mr. Paulson sighed. “I know. I know.”

It was the very outcome the White House had said it intended to avoid, with partisan presidential politics appearing to trample what had been exceedingly delicate Congressional negotiations.

Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and chairman of the Senate banking committee, denounced the session as “a rescue plan for John McCain,” and proclaimed it a waste of precious hours that could have been spent negotiating.

But a top aide to Mr. Boehner said it was Democrats who had done the political posturing. The aide, Kevin Smith, said Republicans revolted, in part, because they were chafing at what they saw as an attempt by Democrats to jam through an agreement on the bailout early Thursday and deny Mr. McCain an opportunity to participate in the agreement.

Source
Talks Implode During a Day of Chaos; Fate of Bailout Plan Remains Unresolved – NY Times

About 

Edward Harrison is the founder of Credit Writedowns and a former career diplomat, investment banker and technology executive with over twenty years of business experience. He is also a regular economic and financial commentator on BBC World News, CNBC Television, Business News Network, CBC, Fox Television and RT Television. He speaks six languages and reads another five, skills he uses to provide a more global perspective. Edward holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College. Edward also writes a premium financial newsletter. Sign up here for a free trial.

2 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    An economic bailout strategy that will help Main Street, but not reward Wall Street is needed. The national approach must include a healthy dose of common sense. The voices of the citizens are rising up in a roar, but it seems that those in the ivory tower known as Capitol Hill are deaf to a chorus from grass-roots America. A bailout should not be complicated. Simplicity is essential. The following link is an elegant solution to our National dilemma.

    http://www.sentinel-consulting.com/Crisis/Simplified_Bailout_Strategy.pdf

  2. thanks for your contribution. Any thought on why the bailout has become so convoluted and bloated?