Thursday, Sept. 25, 2008 | 11:29 p.m.
WASHINGTON -- The problem Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid foresaw Tuesday, as he urged Republican presidential candidate John McCain to weigh in on the $700 billion Wall Street bailout saying "we need some Republican votes," has now taken full shape.
McCain’s position remains unclear after today’s rare White House meeting, and a core group of House Republicans are refusing to get behind Bush’s bailout plan.
Now, Democrats led by Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are in the odd position of pushing to pass – with concessions they seek – the president’s plan.
Congressional leaders are loathe to approve the unprecedented bailout without full backing from both parties to avoid sending a mixed message to the financial markets.
Uncertainty from the Hill might not give the markets the confidence they need to turn around the grave financial crisis facing the country.
Reid returned to the Capitol late today, after the meeting with Bush, McCain and Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, and other congressional leaders, and said McCain’s decision to suspend his campaign and belatedly enter talks “only hurt the process.”
“I would suggest anyone in that meeting that tried to understand what John McCain said at the meeting couldn’t,” Reid said tonight. “He didn’t say anything of substance.”
Other Democrats involved in the talks agreed. Democratic Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the Financial Services Committee, who has been leading negotiations, said later that “Sen. McCain was very unclear.”
A McCain campaign spokesman issued a memo late tonight saying the McCain urged a bipartisan solution that protected taxpayers. He said McCain would return to the Hill on Friday morning to continue negotiations.
While Republicans in the Senate are increasingly on board with the bailout, understanding the grave financial threat facing the country as the president articulated in his prime-time address Wednesday evening, House Republicans are refusing to throw their lot in with an unpopular president.
A break-off group of conservative House Republicans offered an 11th-hour proposal late Friday.
Negotiators from the both parties were back at work tonight.