Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tossing In A Newt Wrench

Yesterday, John Boehner quite publicly complained about Nancy Pelosi's really mean speech as the source of the Republicans "No" vote on the bailout. Today, the House leadership (although not Boehner himself) are walking back that explanation quite openly. Fine. Whatever. Principles or tantrum, the House Republicans put the ball squarely in the Democrats' court on this one.

Who, however, was behind the Republican decision to screw this particular pooch? According to Andrea Mitchell, it was none other than former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. If true, this was a colossal interference in the legislative process by an outsider.

More interesting are the ways to try and understand what, exactly, is happening. My own guess is as follows. There are enough Republicans, who for principles reasons, did not like the concept of a "bailout" (or, as the new nom de jeur puts it, a "rescue") and were planning to hold their noses as they voted for it. My guess is that Newt figured he could get the Republicans to sink the bailout, allow the Democrats to write a more liberal version - including some of their own pet stuff like extension of unemployment insurance, protection against foreclosure, strict caps on executive compensation, etc. - that the President would most surely veto. Thus, the Democrats would get even more blame, in their eyes for (a) not doing what was necessary to round up enough votes in their own caucus to get the first bill through; then (b) passing a bill the President would most surely refuse to sign. Thus, the House Republicans could run against the Democrats as preferring to play politics in an opportunistic way during a "crisis" rather than knuckling under to Republican demands for a blank check. If this is the game Gingrich and the House Republicans are playing, it's a dangerous one on a number of levels.

One thing to note about this entire mess. As it stood, the sum in the failed bill was around $700 billion. Yesterday, once news hit Wall St. that the bill tanked, stocks lost $1.1 trillion. That's about a third more in one day than the amount the feds were planning to pump in to the system over a span of months. Now, the Dow is back up today, which suggests that trying to gauge any bailout plan based solely on the fluctuation of the financial markets is a fool's game. It is, however, something to remember.

Virtual Tin Cup

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