Congress wrestles with Wall Street bailout package
Is there a deal or not? It depends on who’s asked, but an outline is emerging from Thursday’s meeting at the White House.
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“We’re in a serious crisis if we don’t pass legislation,” said President Bush said at the opening of Thursday’s meeting, which included presidential contenders John McCain and Barack Obama, as well as top congressional leaders.Skip to next paragraph
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“All of us around the table take this issue very seriously, and we know we have to get something done as quickly as possible. My hope is that we can reach an agreement very shortly,” Mr. Bush said.
Whatever the outcome, it’s likely to be a tough vote for many members of Congress, who have been deluged with protests from voters over the prospect of a taxpayer funded bailout for Wall Street. The most conspicuous holdouts have been House Republicans, who have met five times as a group times in the last 48 hours over the issue.
Soon after Senator Dodd and others announced a deal on a bailout, House Republicans released their own recovery plan, which opts for mortgage insurance, rather than an outright government purchase of troubled assets, to calm troubled markets.
“The purpose is to try to break the logjam so we can leave here Sunday with a bill passed that frankly puts the onus on Wall Street, not the taxpayers who have lived by the rules, in order to fund this recovery,” says Rep. Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia, who headed the 10-member working group.
“We’re reaching out not only to members on our side of the aisle, but also to Democrats. We found a lot of positive reception to this notion: That families in this nation … should not have to pay to bail out Wall Street,” he added.
Instead of a $700 billion bailout, House Republicans propose an insurance plan, similar to what the Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae) already does to help mortgage lenders in low-income areas. “Currently, the federal government insures approximately half of all mortgage-backed securities (MBS). We can insure the rest of current outstanding MBS; however, rather than taxpayer funding insurance, the holders of these assets should pay for it,” the group said in a statement.
In the run-up to Thursday’s meeting, both Speaker Pelosi and Senate majority leader Harry Reid said that they would not bring a bailout plan to the floor without a significant number of Republican votes – about 110 in the House and 30 in the Senate. That’s the key target group for the Bush White House – and, more recently, Senator McCain – in a bid to pass a bailout bill as early as this weekend.
“People agree that inaction is not an option, but I also believe that there is a broad agreement that the Paulson plan is not the only plan,” says Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R) of Texas, who heads the conservative Republican Study Group.