In a clear sign that the administration believes the plans for the Hanke-Panke Wall Street bailout are faltering, the White House has announced that president George Bush will address the nation at 9 p.m. tonight.
“The White House now is playing its top card – a presidential address to the nation – to persuade the public that the plan is really needed, and that everyone will suffer if the government doesn’t act,” the Wall Street Journal reports. A report from the Associated Press says that the administration is prepared to endorse caps on executive pay as part of a compromise deal.
The situation on Capitol Hill is becoming ever more confused. One Washington observer described it as “a game of chicken,” with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers holding back support for bailout as they grasp for political advantage.
Democrats, who control the majority in both the House and the Senate, could authorise the bailout without a single Republican vote. A GOP filibuster against the bailout is not even being considered. But Democrats are fearful that the Republicans will use the bailout against them, once again describing the Democrats as a party of big-spenders and undermining claims that Republicans are in the pockets of big business. To avoid handing a potential political win to Republicans, the Democrats are demanding the White House secure bipartisan support for the bailout.
At the same time, Democrats are fixing a host of long sought-after provisions onto the Hanky-Panke Wall Street bailout bill, including caps on executive pay and bankruptcy reforms that would allow judges to modify mortgages. House Republicans are expected to resist these modifications, and many are sceptical of the bailout altogether.
Yesterday House Republicans met with vice president Dick Cheney yesterday in what turned into a rancorous and divisive debate. “The murmur against the bailout turned into an outcry,” one person familiar with the matter said. “The advocates of Paulson’s plan are on the defensive, having to fend off critics rather than explaining an inevitable legislative deal to authorise the Use of Paulson.”
This morning’s closed-door meeting between House Republicans and Treasury secretary Hank Paulson apparently went somewhat better, according to Politico:
House Republicans emerged upbeat–if not fully convinced– from a closed door meeting with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on Wednesday morning, just a day after a meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney on the bailout plan was described as a “bloodbath.”
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