Blunt Steps Away From Claim That Pelosi Speech Cost a Dozen GOP Votes

By Jennifer Parker

Sep 30, 2008 5:45am

In an interview with ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf that aired on "Nightline" Monday evening, Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. — the House Minority Whip and chief House Republican negotiator on the bailout bill language — explained his view of today’s doings.

So, what happened? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had said the Republicans needed to deliver 80 votes to pass the bailout.

Only 65 voted for the bill.

"I don’t know that Speaker Pelosi gets to decide that," Blunt said. "We were close to that number when we went to the floor.  A couple of things happened that we didn’t quite get there but, well, you know, … things are hard to do, people are always looking for that last thing that makes them mad, that last thing that says, ‘Well, I was gonna be there and that happened.’"

Blunt was keen to extend the olive branch and get back on a bipartisan footing after the bailout bill failed and the Dow Jones fell more than 777 points, more than it has ever tumbled in one day before.

And in the end, Blunt said, the reality of a downturn might not be entirely bad for the prospects of the bailout (even if it’s bad for the economy) because it might shake the public and some U.S. representatives awake to this economic crisis.

"At some point, it helps a lot, if there’s a real credit crisis in the country, if local banks start calling their congressmen and saying, ‘Well, it’s finally gotten here, we now feel the pinch that they were talking about in the big banks ten days ago, we just began to feel it yesterday,’" Blunt said. "That’ll make more impact in getting this to where the true heartbeat of a representative of the people is — what impact it’s having on the Main Street they live on than all the talk you can get about big banks and world financial markets."

Some of Blunt’s colleagues had said Pelosi’s speech on the bill, an hour before the vote, was too partisan and swayed a dozen Republicans from earlier pledges to support it.

Blunt was reluctant to attribute the loss of 12 Republican votes entirely to Pelosi’s speech, but did say her speech was not helpful. "We clearly had some members that were there, but were precariously there, and one or two of them may have been affected by the speaker’s speech," Blunt said. "In the weekend of negotiating this, the spirit in the room was very good, but the press conferences the speaker and a few Democrats had outside the room were invariably partisan. None of that helped."

Blunt said that Republican leaders "had 12 people beyond, that we thought we had going into the float, that we didn’t have for various reasons, and I haven’t had time to go back and ask them all why it was that they didn’t do what we thought they were gonna do … That one speech was not helpful, but I think you don’t want to give too much blame to that speech."

So, what next?

Blunt says congressional leaders are "going to look for things that can be added to the edge of this bill that might change it. Or the other option is to just go in a totally new direction. But this same bill, I think, cannot pass the House without some kind of addition."

– Jake Tapper and Z. Byron Wolf

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