WASHINGTON -- With negotiations continuing on a $700-billion bailout package torpedoed Thursday by House Republicans, President Bush said today that he is optimistic a compromise will emerge.
"We are going to get a package passed," Bush said in a statement outside the Oval Office this morning. "We will rise to the occasion, where Republicans and Democrats will come together and pass a substantial rescue plan."
"There is no disagreement that something substantial must be done," he said.
But House Republicans, who boycotted the talks Thursday, were defiant today. With e-mails and calls to Congress running overwhelmingly against the deal, House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio announced that he is sending Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri to join negotiations. But he warned that House Republicans, while at the table, will not be deterred in their efforts to protect Main Street.
"We believe that America is on the edge of an economic crisis and we believe that we need to act and need to act quickly," he said today. But, he added, "We will not agree to a bill that sells taxpayers out."
Noting the rough reception his ideas got Thursday at the White House, Boehner complained, "I don't know what games they were playing yesterday at the White House, but if they thought they were rolling me, they were kidding themselves."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) vowed that senators would stay in session for as long as it took to complete a deal and saw no reason the deal could not be finalized before markets open Monday. He called on House Republicans to "come to the negotiations" and for Republican presidential candidate John McCain to stand down.
"The insertion of presidential politics has not been helpful, it's been harmful," he said.
But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called the presence of both McCain and Democrat Barack Obama "entirely constructive." Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, agreed that the two presidential candidates had focused not only Congress but "the American people" on the need to act. He also credited today's markets, which suffered a sharp drop at the open, with spurring talks. "It's extremely important not only to get the substance right but to do it quickly ... to restore confidence," said Gregg, who represents Senate Republicans in the talks.
Reid acknowledged public outrage over the deal and said the administration displayed "some degree of amazement" at the outcry. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is "a fine man," Reid said "but he has learned a lot about how we represent our constituencies."
At the White House, press secretary Dana M. Perino said that negotiators are going to "keep working on it" and that "not passing the bill hurts everyone."
On the Senate floor, Democrats put the onus on Bush to corral the needed House Republican votes. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) has said she will not bring the measure to the floor without Republican support.
"We need to get the president to get the Republican House in order," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said this morning. "Without Republican cooperation, we cannot pass this bill."
Schumer said Bush should also "respectfully tell Sen. McCain to get out of town. He is not helping, he is harming. Before Sen. McCain made his announcement, we were making progress."
The flurry of comments capped a remarkable day on Capitol Hill on Thursday, a roller-coaster day of hopes raised and hopes dashed as the nation's financial system bogged down, with conservative Republicans denouncing the strategy as ill-conceived and Democrats accusing McCain of encouraging the revolt.
What remained unclear was whether Thursday's breakdown marked the beginning of the end for the rescue effort, or merely a tumultuous interlude on the way to approving a federal bailout that many in Congress consider unpalatable but unavoidable.
There were signs Thursday that, behind the scenes, skeptical Democrats and Republicans were beginning to move toward a compromise version of Paulson's original plan, but it remained to be seen whether there would be enough votes to pass legislation.
"I'm seeing both Republicans and Democrats start to move toward voting for it," Rep. John Campbell (R-Irvine) said. "I can't tell you that there's a majority at this point, but there's movement."
Bush confident on bailout, but House Republicans defiant
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