- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 27, 2008

Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain nudged his party toward agreement on an economic rescue on Friday and even opened dialogue with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The McCain team, before resuming the campaign and heading to a presidential debate in Mississippi, said the candidate contacted the administration and Republican leaders in both chambers to foster engagement in a bipartisan compromise.

The conversations included House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio, House Budget Committee ranking Republican Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Senate Budget Committee ranking Republican Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., said aides familiar with the calls.

He also contacted Mrs. Clinton, New York Democrat and former presidential contender, to promote bipartisan negotiations, talks that proved “cordial and productive,” said McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds. He did not give details of the conversation.

Mrs. Clinton said the conversation was part of her effort to find a solution to the market crisis.

“Throughout this crisis Senator Clinton has spoken to many people, including Secretary Paulson, [Federal Reserve Bank of New York President Timothy F. Geithner] and colleagues including Senators Obama and McCain, and she’s reiterated to them all what she’s called for in public,” Clinton senior adviser Philippe Reines said.

The turmoil over the bailout on Capitol Hill, especially among Republicans, frustrated Mr. McCain’s bid to be a sober referee in a time of crisis, an outcome relished by Democrats. But it also put the long-suffering Republicans on the same side as a majority of voters opposed to a $700 billion rescue package for Wall Street.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid insisted Mr. McCain politicized the process and House Republicans dragged it to a standstill by pushing an alternative plan.

“The time is now for House Republicans to come to the negotiating table and for presidential politics to leave the negotiating table,” said Mr. Reid, Nevada Democrat. “The insertion of presidential politics has not been helpful. It’s been harmful. … all [Mr. McCain] has done is stand in front of the cameras. We still don’t know where he stands on the issue.”

Unlike Mr. McCain, Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama kept a low profile in the Wall Street bailout debate, although he did attend the White House meeting at the request of President Bush.

“When you start injecting presidential politics into delicate negotiations, then you can actually create more problems rather than less,” Mr. Obama told reporters. “I think both myself and Senator McCain need to be very careful in terms of how we inject ourselves into this process.”

The Democrats proposal takes the administrations plan to spend $700 billion buying the frozen assets and adds an independent board to oversee the program, aid for homeowners facing foreclosure and limits on corporate executives’ compensation.

Mr. McCain has said he wants any government intervention into the finance industry to include ample protections for taxpayers and signaled that he is receptive to House Republican proposals, which include using federal mortgage insurance rather than asset buyouts to unfreeze the credit market.

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