A high-stakes White House meeting that was supposed to seal an agreement on a $700 billion plan to avert financial disaster on Wall Street unexpectedly dissolved into a heated argument over an alternate proposal by conservative Republicans, leading congressional leaders to clash over a deal that had suddenly turned sour.But Democrats are the real obstacle:
"This is deteriorating," President Bush declared as the meeting grew more heated, according to one of the participants.
Minutes later, Senator Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican and ranking member of the Senate Banking Committe, emerged from the White House and declared that earlier reports of an agreement were premature. The agreement, he told reporters, "is no agreement," adding that Bush's rescue plan was "flawed from the beginning."
Angry Democrats later accused Republican presidential nominee John McCain of throwing the deal off track, trying to upstage the negotiations in an effort to help his campaign.Dodd, of course, is No. 1 in Congress in campaign contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Obama is No. 2 on that list.
Senate Banking Committee chairman Chris Dodd of Connecticut - who earlier in the day announced that a bipartisan deal had been reached - said after the White House meeting that McCain was engaged in "political theater" for injecting himself into the negotiations between Congress and the White House.
"This looked to me like it was a rescue plan for John McCain," Dodd said on CNN.
The fast-moving turn of events left in doubt whether McCain and Barack Obama, his Democratic rival, would engage in tonight's scheduled presidential debate in Mississippi.
Well, they can scrap the bailout, as far as I'm concerned, but the debate should go on. I'm invited to a debate party tonight, and I'm going to be angry if it gets canceled.
UPDATE: The Republican Study Committee plan -- which I mentioned yesterday -- was apparently brought up in last night's meeting by John McCain, and shot down by Henry Paulson:
Towards the end, McCain finally spoke up, mentioning a counter-proposal that had been offered by some conservative House Republicans, which would suspend the capital gains tax for two years and provide tax incentives to encourage firms that buy up bad debt. McCain did not discuss specifics of the plan, though, and was non-committal about supporting it.Via Hot Air, which also links Baseball Crank's observation that "even his own Democratic colleagues recognize that Barack Obama is completely irrelevant to the process." Ah, but with a deal like this, being irrelevant may be a good thing.
Paulson, however, argued directly against the conservative proposal. "He said that he did not think it would work," according to the source.
UPDATE II: If McCain doesn't want to debate, Bob Barr says he'll be happy to step in. Cynthia McKinney, too.