G.O.P. Bigs Back Bailout Condemnation

Jan 5, 2009 8:55pm

ABC News’ Teddy Davis Reports:

During a Monday debate in Washington, D.C., five of the six Republicans hoping to chair the national party endorsed a resolution which would break with President Bush and GOP congressional leaders by putting the party’s governing body on record as opposing the recently enacted bailout of the financial industry.

"The bailout was a bust. It should never have happened. Republicans should have had a little bit more you-know-what to withstand the pressure. They didn’t and we’re paying for it. I absolutely support the resolution because it reflects the frustration of our base," said former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele.

Steele was not alone in voicing his support for a resolution condemning the bailout. Joining him were Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis, South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, and former Huckabee campaign manager Chip Saltsman.

The resolution, which was co-authored by R.N.C. Vice Chairman James Bopp, Jr., and Oregon Republican National Committeeman Solomon Yue, will be considered by the party’s resolutions committee on Jan. 29. To be adopted by the party, the resolution must get beyond the resolutions panel and win a majority support from the RNC’s full 168-person membership.

The candidates for R.N.C. chair were asked for their positions on the bailout resolution by debate moderator Grover Norquist who heads Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative anti-tax group.

"There’s a resolution that’s being offered to the Republican National Committee criticizing the bailout that was done this summer for the banks suggesting that it was criminally stupid . . . is this a resolution you intend to vote for? Or, if you’re not on the committee, would you support its enactment?"

The only candidate who did not endorse the resolution during Monday’s debate at the National Press Club was Mike Duncan, the current RNC chairman who is seeking an additional two-year term.

"This is not the kind of question I believe you can answer with ‘yes’ or ‘no,’" said Duncan. "As a banker, I probably understand this as well as anyone on this stage."

Although he stopped short of offering an on-the-spot endorsement, Duncan had critical words about the bailout.

"I resent the TARP money," said Duncan, referring to the Troubled Assets Relief Program contained in the Wall Street bailout plan. "And I think there are problems in this whole area."

Bopp was delighted by the anti-bailout sentiment expressed at Monday’s debate.

"There is widespread understanding among Republicans that we have to do this," said Bopp, referring to his anti-bailout resolution.

"Bush has been a fabulous president," he continued, "but nobody is perfect and this was a serious error which was not controlling spending, not controlling earmarks and then doing the bailouts. Unless you say you’re wrong, no one is going to believe you when you say that you’re not going to do it again."

In quickly describing the resolution at Monday’s debate, Norquist only referenced its condemnation of the bailout that the financial industry received.

In an interview with ABC News, Bopp explained that the resolution goes much further.

"The resolution opposes the bailout of the financial industry and their nationalization," said Bopp. "It opposes the bailout and nationalization of the auto industry, and it opposes any future bailouts including Obama’s public works projects which amount to a bailout of cities and states because they would have the federal taxpayer assume the responsibility to pay for all the state and local public works projects."

Bopp, who backed former Gov. Mitt Romney’s, R-Mass., presidential bid and is uncommitted in the RNC chairman’s race, thinks Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., blew his chances against Barack Obama by voting for the Wall Street bailout.

"If McCain had voted against it, I think he would have won the presidency," said Bopp. "He would have separated himself from Bush. He would have showed that he was not an insider. He would have showed that he understands the American people."

Norquist, who is neutral in the GOP chairman’s race, told ABC News that the anti-bailout resolution is important because it gets the RNC "back into the swing of having an opinion as a party" on something as central as "giving $750 billion of other people’s money to people whose claim to fame is that they lost their money."

ABC News’ Ferdous Al-Faruque contributed to this report.

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