Stephanopoulos: On Track for Deal and Debate

By Jennifer Parker

Sep 25, 2008 8:11am

ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos reports: Congress is heading towards a deal today on the Bush administration’s proposed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street, congressional and administration sources tell ABC News.

Republican and Democratic leaders in the House this morning are saying they believe that the framework can be put together today and then ratified this afternoon at an unprecedented White House meeting scheduled for 4:00 p.m. ET between President Bush, both presidential candidates Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, and top negotiators.

But lawmakers still have some work to do. Top congressional negotiators meet this morning to hammer out the last additions to the bailout bill.

Lawmakers have agreed to add to the plan a provision that would limit executive compensation, or so-called "golden parachutes" for Wall Street executives who mismanage their companies. 

They have also agreed to legislate an oversight board that would oversee how the banks and investment firms are spending this taxpayer money.

However, there are two big remaining sticking points right now.

Lawmakers are wrestling with trying to find a way to provide some relief to homeowners facing foreclosure, that is at the heart of the economic crisis. They are also considering finding a way to parcel out the $700 billion in pieces over time, to make sure the plan is working.

McCain has suspended his campaign in order to return to Washington to help with the bailout bill, and has asked debate organizers to push the first presidential debate scheduled for Friday at the University of Mississippi to Oct. 2.

It’s a politically risky move designed to try to convince voters that he is best able to deal with the economic crisis.

McCain’s political gamble runs the risk of falling flat or winning him some much needed political points. McCain is trailing Obama by nine percentage points in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Democrats say it’s just a desperate ploy that is not going to help the process at all and that it could politicize it.

"It’s the longest Hail Mary pass in the history of either football or Marys," chief Democratic negotiator Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, told reporters last night.

Republicans are saying the opposite, signaling McCain may be able to shore up GOP support in Congress for the President’s unpopular bailout plan.

Obama initially resisted changing his campaign plans, but has agreed to come to Washington for today’s White House meeting. However, the Obama campaign refuses to reschedule the debate, arguing it’s an important event for voters at a critical time.

"Presidents are going to have to deal with more than one thing at one time," Obama said Wednesday.

But the fact that there is a White House meeting today, and the fact that there is now a joint statement which was first proposed by Obama, suggests McCain’s gamble may be on track to paying off.

Republican and Democratic leaders have all signed on to the need for a bailout bill, making it very difficult for the process to fall apart, with so many of the major players now bought into the idea that they have to come up with a solution.

The bottom line is we’re going to see the framework of the deal put into place today.
If the framework is put into place, then there will be a presidential debate tomorrow; however, a lot could happen politically between now and then.

But the cancellation of the first presidential debate would be the least of the country’s problems if the plan falls apart, because we could see a massive drop in the markets.

However, if the bailout bill is passed today, then McCain would have gotten a little bit out of this gambit.  If it all falls apart, there could be a big blowback to McCain.

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