Reader Lune, who has been a guest contributor on this blog and was once a Congressional aide (health care was his beat) took a gander through his HIll newspapers and was so kind as to write up what they were saying about the Paulson plan. Bottom line: whatever enthusiasm there was for it appears to be waning.
A previous post had a quote from an anonymous congressional staffer about the effect of all of our e-mails, phone calls, faxes, etc. on our representatives. It appears that support for the bailout plan in its present form is rapidly declining. From Roll Call:
The Bush administration’s forceful lobbying effort failed Tuesday to win support from rank-and-file Republicans or Democrats for a $700 billion Wall Street bailout package, though GOP and Democratic leaders still planned to move a bipartisan bill by the end of the week.
. . .
The rank and file in both parties expressed deep concerns about anything resembling the $700 billion that the White House wants, and leaders struggled to keep their Members open-minded in the face of surging outside opposition from a diverse range of voices from former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and the Club for Growth on the right to liberal bloggers on the left.
. . .
But both sides face heat internally, with liberals upset with what some see as a handout to Wall Street cronies and with conservatives who are appalled at the unprecedented intervention in the free market.
. . .
The political backlash is hitting lawmakers in their offices and mail, with voters wondering why a bailout is necessary and how it got to this point.
“We are a reflection of America,” Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) said. “The public doesn’t support this thing because they see it as a bailout for Wall Street and they don’t understand the consequences for not doing it.”
Members of the conservative Republican Study Committee ridiculed the bailout and argued instead for a cut in corporate tax rates and the suspension of the capital gains tax.
And they also objected to being told that they have to act immediately. “The last time I heard that I was on a used car lot,” said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who is opposing the bailout.
“Initially I think the whole thing stinks,” Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) said after the GOP meeting with Cheney. “Everyone in the room thinks that this really stinks.”
Wamp said lawmakers want some assurance that taxpayers won’t lose out on the deal and CEOs won’t benefit. But Wamp said Members also see the risk that inaction could prompt a fiscal crisis.
“It’s a heavy task to try and convince the Congress six weeks before an election that this kind of rescue plan is necessary,” he said. “It’s going to be a close call at this point.”
Of course, what would Congress be like without the inevitable spin job?
Senate Republicans sought to turn the debate around from one about a taxpayer-financed bailout for Wall Street to one of “market stabilization” that would benefit average Americans seeking small business or car loans.
“What’s important to remember here is that if we don’t take this type of stabilizing action, the cost to the taxpayer in lost jobs, lost savings, lost opportunity, is huge,” Budget ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said.
Ironically, it may be the Republicans that prove to be the most stubborn opponents to the Administration. From The Hill:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is telling Democrats that she will not support President Bush’s $700 billion bailout of the financial sector unless there is significant Republican support for the controversial plan.
. . .
Pelosi (D-Calif.) has effectively sent the message that if she is going to jump off a cliff to rescue Wall Street, she wants House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and George W. Bush holding her hands when she leaps.
. . .
To get that kind of support, President Bush needs to go on television to speak directly to the public, and get on the phone to rally his fellow Republicans, said House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.).
. . .
In the Senate, Republicans have also lined up to oppose their president’s bill, which led Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to worry that he may not have enough Republican votes to pass the package.
“We need Republican votes to help us,” he said. “This is a Republican package and we need Republican votes.”
Several GOP senators voiced frustration over the plan during a Banking panel hearing at which Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson urged members of both parties to approve the package quickly.
. . .
Reid said that his Democratic colleagues told him that as of Tuesday only one Republican on the Banking Committee could be counted on to vote for the bailout.
. . .
“Ownership” was the word of the day Tuesday, as in, “Who’s going to own this bailout package if it fails?” or if it works and voters remain furious at seeing investment bankers on the public dole.
There’s also the question of who has “ownership” of the faltering economy. And so far, nobody seems to want to own either one.
. . .
It’s hard to find even one Republican ready to publicly pledge his or her vote. Democratic leaders are speculating that GOP leaders can count on no more than 40 votes. A Republican aide said if Pelosi needs a Republican majority to bring it to the floor, she won’t be bringing it to the floor.
Perhaps sensing the trouble, Vice President Dick Cheney trekked to Capitol Hill to lobby his fellow Republicans for the plan.
But the meeting brought no public converts. Republicans leaving the hour-and-a-half-long meeting said Cheney was told that the plan lacked the details they needed.
Things don’t look much better on the Democratic side, though some members are starting to think about what they might ask for in exchange for the vote. Reid predicted that Democrats will be ready to approve it as long as there is adequate oversight, executive pay limits and accountability.
This raises the question: if the Republicans are indeed that reluctant to support their own President’s proposals, why are the Democrats so keen to get something passed? Are they more worried than the Republicans that the public will blame them for the unfolding disaster? At any rate, while chances are still pretty good that something will pass within the next week or so, it will most likely be significantly different than the current plan. On the other hand, since Paulson and Bernanke have essentially promised that Armageddon will come next week unless something is done, if the Sun actually rises on Monday and the sky doesn’t fall, perhaps the entire justification for any bailout plan will collapse and we won’t be saddled with this $700 bil (and counting) boondoggle… Time to start calling your Senator/Congressperson!