- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 27, 2008

House Republicans stood their ground Friday as the White House and congressional negotiators struggled to get a $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan back on track, holding out hope that some kind of deal could be struck this weekend.

Top congressional Democrats, including House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, said progress was being made and even predicted an agreement by Sunday, but House Republicans voiced less optimism and touted an alternative plan they say would avoid a direct taxpayer bailout of troubled banks and financial firms.

The deadlock did not faze the stock market as some had feared, with investors choosing instead to play a wait-and-see game. The Dow Jones Index rose 121 points and the broader Standard and Poor’s 500 Index also finished higher, though trading was light.

Still, credit markets remained tight. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., the main architect of the bailout proposal, has warned that the real danger is in that sector, where the refusal of battered banks to make new business and consumer loans raises the threat of a general economic implosion.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, took a feisty stance in denying that House Republicans had torpedoed progress on the bill by offering their counterproposal at Thursday’s White House summit.

“I don’t know what games were being played at the White House yesterday - a gang-up on Boehner - but if they thought they were rolling me, they were kidding themselves,” Mr. Boehner told reporters.

House Republicans, who think they had been excluded from intensive talks between Democrats and the administration, said their proposal had given them a seat at the table and highlighted their deep unhappiness with the Wall Street bailout.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Mr. Frank continued to accuse the Republicans of undermining an emerging bipartisan consensus over the scope and mechanisms of the bailout plan they said was taking shape early Thursday.

Mr. Frank said he did not see the Republican alternative proposal until Thursday afternoon, after a week of private negotiations and lengthy public hearings Tuesday and Wednesday involving Mr. Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke.

“That is simply irresponsible,” he said.

Democratic leaders are pressing for a sizable Republican vote to pass the bill, fearing they will otherwise be left taking the blame from voters.

Minority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri, designated by Mr. Boehner as his chief negotiator in the talks, said he hoped a bill could be passed and noted that the majority House Democrats don’t actually need Republican votes. But he added that concerns of rank-and-file Republicans had to be taken into account if the package is to win broad support.

“Clearly, the Democrats have a majority in both houses of Congress. If they want to do this by themselves, they can do this in a minute,” he said. “If they want to do this with us, we’re prepared to have that negotiation.”

Earlier Friday, President Bush made a fresh appeal for quick action a day after his high-stakes White House summit - which included presidential rivals Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama - appeared to set the bill back and sparked renewed partisan finger-pointing.

“My administration continues to work with the Congress on a rescue plan, and we need a rescue plan,” the president said to reporters just outside the Oval Office as a steady rain fell behind him.

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