Bailout agreement not there yet

Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, right, and Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts pause as they speak to the media after a bipartisan meeting on Capitol Hill to discuss the Bush Administration?s $700 billion bailout plan for the nation's financial crisis on Sept. 25, 2008, in Washington, D.C.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

KAI RYSSDAL: Our continuing coverage of the mess in the financial markets comes to you from Cleveland today. And I have to tell you, I got an earful this morning from a lot of really angry people. I'll explain that in just a bit. But first, an update on the politics of this unbelievable economic story.

Our Washington Bureau Chief John Dimsdale is at his usual post today, keeping track of a story that seems to change by the hour.

Hiya, John.

JOHN DIMSDALE: Hello, Kai.

KAI RYSSDAL: All right, so, big package here. What's in it?

DIMSDALE: Well, congressional leaders earlier today announced that they did have an agreement, although they were kind of short on the details. And they took that agreement later in the day to the White House in a meeting that included President Bush and the two presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama.

Now, that meeting has broken up without any announcement of an agreement. Even though, earlier today, Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts both said that they had reached a basic agreement on just about everything.

CHRISTOPHER DODD: Now, in anticipation of your questions, we're not going to go into the details of this. Clearly, we now need to meet with the Treasury Department and go over these principles which we've agreed on among ourselves, and obviously go back to our respective caucuses to talk with them as well.

BARNEY FRANK: As the concerns of the Democratic members of the House were brought to me and to the Speaker, I can report back to them, as I will, that we have been able to accommodate the bulk of them in very responsible ways.

DIMSDALE: Now, some Republicans say they're not convinced this really is an agreement, and that it'll hold, but one who was inside the negotiations, Utah Senator Robert Bennett, he seems convinced.

ROBERT BENNETT: The most encouraging thing that comes out of it, from my point of view, is that I now expect we will indeed have a plan that can pass the House, pass the Senate, be signed by the president, and bring a sense of certainty to this crisis that is still roiling in the markets.

RYSSDAL: You've got to love Chris Dodd saying, in anticipation of your questions we're not gonna take any questions. Kind of leads you to believe that there's more going on here than really meets the eye. What don't we know?

DIMSDALE: Well, there was one issue that they could not agree on at all, and that's this Democratic idea of allowing judges in bankruptcy proceedings to change the terms and the interest rates of mortgages. So that's still up for grabs. Also, we don't know who's covered under the restrictions on executive salaries. Is it just the CEO, or is it the top five, or the top 20 executives? We don't know the price that the banks will have to pay to participate in this. They'll have to give the government some sort of equity in their companies, but we don't know how much or what form, and that could be a big sticking point. Also, congressional leaders said that they will provide the $700 billion in installments, not all at once, but we don't know how much the initial payment will be, although there are reports that it will be $250 billion.

RYSSDAL: Have to ask you about the 800 pound gorilla here, John, or I guess, all three of them. The two presidential candidates, and the incumbent in that office. They're obviously meeting at the White House this afternoon.

DIMSDALE: Yeah, all in one room. This has caused some grousing from the negotiators up on the Hill who have been deep in the details for days now, and there are some who worry that the presence of these two presidential candidates -- you know, their attempts to jockey for the best position -- could jeopardize progress. Still, there now appears to be lots of momentum behind this package. Even though there are still some details to be worked out, it looks like . . . that they're gonna have some votes in the House and the Senate as early as tomorrow or Saturday.

RYSSDAL: If there is a deal then, do you think John McCain is gonna go down to Mississippi for the debate tomorrow night?

DIMSDALE: That's unclear. He hasn't said whether he's gonna participate. Obama says he'll be there.

RYSSDAL: John Dimsdale, our Washington bureau chief. Thank you, John.

DIMSDALE: Thank you, Kai.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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