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State Of Bailout Negotiations Examined

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block. In Washington today, lawmakers tried to regroup on a bailout plan for the troubled financial industry. A potential agreement fell apart yesterday in a dramatic meeting at the White House. John McCain and Barack Obama were both there along with President Bush and congressional leaders from both parties, and it was House Republicans who said, no deal. This morning, the president spoke at the White House. He sounded frustrated but determined. We will rise to the occasion, Republicans and Democrats. We'll come together and pass a substantial rescue plan.

Shortly after the president spoke, Barack Obama left Washington for Oxford, Mississippi where tonight he will debate John McCain for the first time. Obama talked briefly with reporters before takeoff. He was asked if yesterday's meeting was a mistake.

BLOCK: I'm not sure that it was as productive as it could have been. But I think at this point, it's important to just move forward.

BLOCK: John McCain had asked that tonight's debate be postponed. But today he said there has been significant progress toward an agreement on the bailout and that he will take part in the debate. In a moment, we'll talk with NPR correspondents traveling with both candidates. But first, joining us from the White House to talk about where the bailout stands is Ed Gillespie, counselor to President Bush. Mr. Gillespie, welcome to the program.

BLOCK: Thanks for having me on.

BLOCK: I understand that the president and vice president have both been on the phone with Republican lawmakers all day trying to get them on board. What can you tell us about how those conversations have gone?

BLOCK: Well, they have been hearing lawmakers out, wanting to understand what their concerns are. Look, this is a very big bill. We're trying to move it in a very quick fashion which is not the norm for the legislative process and people have legitimate concerns and we're listening to those concerns. On the Republican side, there is a desire to explore some market-oriented aspects, in addition to the notion of the government purchasing some of these assets that are, that we're looking to take out of the marketplace so that we can free up liquidity.

That's an understandable approach and something that obviously, as a Republican himself, President Bush is very open to. We want to make sure it works and anything we do has to have an impact in the marketplace because we are at a point where we run the risk of the troubles in the financial markets pouring into people's everyday lives when it comes to things like college loans or auto loans or their 401(k) funds or jobs.

BLOCK: Mr. Gillespie, elsewhere on the program today, the New York Times columnist David Brooks said that he spoke with the conservative House Republican today, and he said your administration has no juice anymore among Republicans on Capitol Hill.

BLOCK: You know, I'm sure that there are members who are looking beyond the election or looking to the election, that's understandable given where we are in the time of the year. But the fact is this is something that's going to require the executive branch and the legislative branch to come together, and the president has put forward a proposal. We always knew that the legislative branch would change that proposal. That's the nature of the process, but the fact is, at the end of the day, I think that what we end up with will be- well I know, it's something that has to be agreed to and signed by the president of the United States and supported by his administration.

BLOCK: Did you expect to see it all fall apart before your eyes at the meeting at the White House yesterday?

BLOCK: Well, that's not what I saw. I know there's a lot of breathless reporting about the meeting yesterday at the White House. But the fact is, as was made clear before the meeting at the White House, there wasn't an agreement with the House Republican leadership or the Senate Republican leadership. There was agreement amongst House and Senate Democrats and that's fine. It's good that they came with- you know, they were able to agree to a proposal.

There were some Republicans who were there, but at least one of the Republicans there, the House Republican who was there said, I'm just here in the spirit of cooperation and support for the process, but I'm not lending commitment to the bill. So there wasn't really an agreement and we certainly hadn't- the administration had not signed off on what the Senate and House Democrats agreed to yesterday, although I thought that was a good step. So, this is the kind of thing that's going to require House Democrats and Senate Democrats and House Republicans and Senate Republicans had come together.

BLOCK: OK. Ed Gillespie, thanks so much.

BLOCK: You bet. Thanks for having me.

BLOCK: Ed Gillespie, counselor to President Bush. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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