By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 23, 2008 12:41 PM
House Republicans remained reluctant to approve legislation that would provide a $700 billion bailout for the financial securities industry after a more than 80-minute sales pitch this morning from Vice President Cheney and President Bush's chief of staff, Joshua Bolten.
GOP leaders asked Cheney and White House officials to brief the lawmakers on the urgent need to pass the legislation after members of Congress returned to Washington yesterday jittery about the size and scope of the administration's request. But rank-and-file lawmakers leaving the meeting gave no indication that they were ready to give swift approval to the bailout.
"Just because God created the world in seven days doesn't mean we have to pass this bill in seven days," said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
"The jury's really out [on] how the Congress is going to act," said Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.).
The legislation's prospects rest largely on keeping it a bipartisan package with substantial support from both Democrats and Republicans. Neither side wants to be trapped into supporting a plan that many believe will be politically unpopular on Election Day, according to lawmakers and aides in both parties.
House Democrats held their own weekly meeting on the plan last night, during which many expressed doubts and complained about the White House's rapid timetable for approval, according to lawmakers.
This afternoon, senators will break into their separate partisan policy luncheons to digest the emerging details of the White House proposal, as well as the competing versions Democrats may offer.
After Cheney left the House GOP meeting shortly before 10:30 a.m., Republicans remained huddled for another 35 minutes with Bolten and other Bush advisers. Later they acknowledged widespread reluctance among lawmakers to approve such a large plan so quickly.
"Nobody wants to do this, nobody wants to be involved in this, nobody wants to take the chance. But I would argue if we do nothing, we are jeopardizing our economy, jobs and people's retirement security. So I would think Congress has to act, and they have to act quickly," said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).