Members Say Deal Near; Boehner Disagrees

Posted September 25, 2008 at 12:40pm

House and Senate negotiators emerged from a meeting Thursday determined to take quick action to bail out a faltering Wall Street.

“We’re prepared to act expeditiously,” said Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who added the bipartisan group had reached a “fundamental agreement on a set of principles” but offered few details.

Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) said he was encouraged by the bipartisan nature of the talks. “We will indeed have a plan that can pass the House, pass the Senate, be signed by the president and bring a sense of certainty” to the financial markets, Bennett said.

The group has instructed staff to write bill language for Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s review later this afternoon or evening.

House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said he was happy to attend this afternoon’s White House meeting, which is expected to include presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), but he said there was little need for it now.

“I’m glad we’ll be able to go and tell them that there’s really not much of a deadlock [in Congress] to break,” Frank said.

But House GOP leaders said there is no deal.

“As I told our Conference this morning, there is no bipartisan deal at this time,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said. “There may be a deal among some Democrats, but House Republicans are not a part of it.”

Dodd said he expected to have a final agreement in the next few days, but noted, “we can’t say exactly when.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said the group agreed to “keep our own counsel until we’ve finished negotiations with Treasury.”

Corker hinted that the group is considering funding the measure in installments, even as they technically authorize the full $700 billion that Treasury has requested to buy bad mortgages in an attempt to ease the credit crunch that threaten to bring the economy to a standstill.

The group also included Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Financial Services ranking member Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.).

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), ranking member on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, was absent from the meeting. Shelby has come out against the bailout, forcing Bennett to serve as the senior GOP member in the meeting.

“There is no problem. Sen. Shelby is very aware of the participants. Because of his position on the overall plan itself, he has deferred to us,” he said.