Staffers for the principal negotiators of the Wall Street bailout bill were asked to turn over their BlackBerries Saturday afternoon so as to prevent leaks, as members of Congress and the Bush administration rolled up their sleeves to try to hammer out a compromise bill.
The BlackBerries, with Post-It notes identifying their owners, vibrated away in a small trash can, and later were spread out on a table for later retrieval, as their owners tried to help their bosses resolve the legislative logjam in one of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's offices on the second floor of the U.S. Capitol building.
House Republicans, who had not been meaningfully involved in the process until Thursday, when they announced they would not vote for the compromise bill first proposed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, sent a high-ranking member of their leadership, Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who arrived to the negotiations carrying a tall cup of coffee.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., projected confidence before the meeting, saying, "It would be my hope that this could be resolved today, that we had a day for the American people and members of Congress to review the legislation on the Internet, that we could bring something to the floor possibly Sunday night or Monday morning."
House Ways and Means chairman Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., currently the subject of an Ethics Committee investigation into whether he skirted taxes, made a surprise showing, joining Blunt, House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., Senate Banking Committee chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, Judd Gregg, R-N.H.
Republicans, who had wanted a five-person meeting with Blunt, Frank, Gregg, Dodd and Paulson, also saw the table fill with other Democrats inserting themselves into the process, including House Caucus chair Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.
House Republicans have been pushing for the U.S. government to provide insurance for the troubled assets threatening so many financial firms, as an alternative to the U.S. government purchasing them. But today the GOPers also started hammering away on other provisions in the bill.
Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., said his GOP colleagues want to make sure the bill "results in effective intervention, that impacts not only Manhattan island but all of Main Street communities across this country. We want to make sure not only is it effective for the taxpayer but it is a clean bill that does not have special interest demands attached to it, simply because it appears to be the last train leaving the Congress for this month.”