Stephanopoulos: What's Next? Congress Mulls Four Options

ABC News' George Stephanopoulos reports: There are meetings going on right now on Capitol Hill to try to figure out what to do about the $700 billion Wall Street bailout bill that failed to pass the House today.

Congressional sources tell ABC News that what they're talking about right now are three or four basic baskets of options:

# 1 -- Muscle Bailout Bill Through House: Some leaders suggest those House Republicans on the fence will be swayed by seeing what the markets do tomorrow, which could be more bad news. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped over 700 points today as the administration's bailout bill failed in Congress  This option would see House leaders try again to muscle through the votes they need to get the $700 billion bailout bill passed.

#2 -- Pass Bailout in Senate First: Some Senate and House leaders have been talking about letting the Senate go first and pass the bailout package, ABC News has learned. There appears to be broader support in the Senate for the bailout package. This option would see the Senate vote first which would increase the pressure on the House to pass the Bush administration's bailout bill.

#3 -- Make Small Tweaks to the Bill: Congressional leaders wonder if perhaps there are a couple of small tweaks they can make to the package that would bring along the 12 votes they lost the vote by. Option A, sources say, could be adding a line that some economists have said is absolutely necessary for the FDIC to guarantee all deposits in transaction accounts, not just up to $100,000.  That would deal with the credit crunch and it would be quite popular, some on Capitol Hill argue. Option B would be eliminating the mark-to-market rule that many Republicans and conservatives complain about, which ensures financial decision-makers must show their losses in real time.

#4 -- Get More Democrats On Board: Finally, one other unlikely option talked about on Capitol Hill is to try to pass the bill almost entirely with the Democratic majority in the House. That would require adding a major stimulus package favored by Democrats, infrastructure spending, unemployment insurance spending, and heating and food stamp assistance for low-income Americans.

All of that is being discussed right now. We're not likely to hear members have landed on any single proposal until at least tomorrow.

Nothing will be done for at least a day and a half as Congress is in recess because of the Jewish New Year. The Senate won't be back until Wednesday afternoon and the House of Representatives is adjourned until Thursday.

However the bigger sell to Congress to do something may be the consequences of not acting. More bad news through the end of the week that might do it.

Bailout Politics

Everyone knew it was going to be a close vote, but we've never seen anything like this.

There was a Republican president, a Democratic Speaker of the House,  a Democratic majority leader,  the entire Republican and Democratic leadership from both sides of Congress and both presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain arguing for this package.

But a peek at the upcoming congressional races of the people who voted against this package provides some insight.

We calculate there are about 31 competitive House races divided between Democratic and Republican House members, and 24 of the 31 members in competitive districts voted against this package.

No one wants to vote for this. Even those who were arguing for it on the House floor today said 'we know this package is painful, we know it's hard to argue that we should be spending up to $700 billion in a way that might end up benefiting the banks.' It's a hard pill to swallow despite the arguments about what's its going to mean for Main Street.

However the fundamental problem for Republicans is that in an election year when the incumbent is not on the ballot, but you've had eight straight years of Republicans in the White House, any bad economic news is likely to fall harder at this point on Republicans.

Obama called on Congress to get the bill passed and McCain blamed Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for injecting what he called "unnecessary partisanship" into the equation.

Many Republicans are complaining about a floor speech Pelosi gave prior to the vote, where she laid so much of the blame on eight years of Republican economics and President George Bush's policies.

The Democrats are arguing it's unbelievable that hurt feelings would prompt the Republicans to switch their vote and perhaps cause an economic disaster.

Neither presidential candidate has given any indication that they are going to suspend their campaign and run back to Washington, DC to deal with this. However it's likely well see both Obama and McCain in Washington in person when that vote finally comes.

 

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