Obama Meeting Elicits Barbs, Not Bipartisanship

Posted April 14, 2010 at 12:30pm

Congressional leaders left a White House meeting on financial regulation Wednesday firmly divided along party lines on how to proceed with sweeping financial reform legislation at the top of President Barack Obama’s agenda.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) came out swinging after the meeting — which also included Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) — and said Democrats need to go back to the table if they want GOP support in reforming the financial sector.

“It’s clear that Democrats in Washington still aren’t listening to the American people, who are asking, ‘Where are the jobs?’ The new financial regulation bill is a clear example,” Boehner said.

Boehner and McConnell ripped the bills put forward by House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) for establishing a fund aimed at preventing future meltdowns of financial institutions and creating a new consumer protection agency.

“It sets up a fund for permanent bailouts that guarantees taxpayers are going to have to keep subsidizing irresponsible behavior on Wall Street, and lets the federal government pick winners and losers in the private sector,” Boehner said. “It does nothing to address the root causes of the financial meltdown.”

But Pelosi dismissed the GOP argument that the financial reform bill is akin to another bailout.

That position “is such a diversion from the facts it’s almost laughable. It’s sad,” Pelosi told reporters. “We got here through the recklessness of Wall Street. … For them to say it’s a bailout just defies credibility in every way.”

Pelosi said the real question driving the need for financial reform is, “Do you want to rein in Wall Street or are you here to keep the party going for financial institutions that have been reckless?”

Reid shot down the suggestion by McConnell that Democrats are cutting Republicans out of the process.

“This is a figment of his imagination,” Reid said. Senate Republicans have been holding up legislation for “this entire Congress,” and McConnell’s attempt to stall financial reform is not “anything new.”

Before heading into the meeting, Obama expressed confidence that Congress will pass a bipartisan package and dismissed the idea that financial reform proposals on the table are bailout bills.

“I am absolutely confident that the bill that emerges is going to be a bill that prevents bailouts. That’s the goal,” he said.