Obama called it "shameful" last week when it was reported that bankers had handed out $18.5 billion in bonuses at the end of 2008, despite the dreadful year of financial losses. The White House had to intervene to persuade Citigroup to abandon plans to buy a $50 million executive jet after getting its $45 billion boost. Merrill Lynch's former CEO John Thain had to be shamed into personally repaying the $1 million he spent on renovating his office while surviving on an additional $45 billion public loan. Bank of America partied hardy at the Super Bowl last weekend. And this week, Wells Fargo reluctantly canceled a corporate outing to Las Vegas.
The new rules should bring a cheer from a frustrated public, a sound that the Obama White House hasn't heard in a while. The withdrawal of two top appointees this week because they hadn't paid all their taxes even prompted the president to repeatedly apologize Tuesday for not adhering to the ethical standard he had publicly set for his administration.
"This was running the possibility of really hurting his reformist image," George Stephanopoulos, ABC News' chief Washington correspondent, told "Good Morning America" today.
The withdrawal of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was particularly damaging because Daschle was going to be the health and human services secretary and the point man on Obama's efforts to reshape the country's health-care system.
The stumbles could also embolden Republicans who are opposing large parts of the president's economic stimulus package.
"The president's going to have to agree to some changes right now," Stephanopoulos told "GMA."
Obama will meet today with Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Neb., and Maine's two Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. The trio are spearheading a centrist group of Democrats and Republicans working to reshape the stimulus bill.
"There will still be differences with this group," Stephanopoulos said. "The president doesn't want to bring the package down as far as some of these senators want to go. But they're going to be working intensively on a compromise today."
ABC News' Dean Norland and Eileen Murphy contributed to this report