[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/29/art.capital.dark.ap.jpg caption="The Federal Bailout plan did not pass through Congress."]David Gergen | Bio
CNN Senior Political Analyst
The financial markets have sent a clear signal of just how reckless the House of Representatives was today in rejecting the compromise bailout plan - no less than $1.2 trillion in stock values were wiped out in just a few hours.
What can be done to get a bill through in the next few days? Here are some initial thoughts:
First, a ton of bricks needs to be dumped on the heads of those who voted against - if they can't see the light, make them feel the heat. Democrats ought to be ashamed that 95 of their Members voted against; but it is the House Republicans who deserve the greatest blame - a significant majority of Democrats voted in favor of the bill, while conservative Republicans - defying the White House - voted against by over 2-1. I hear that some in the White House think the GOP vote was a disgrace; they are right.
Second, Nancy Pelosi has to remove the sting she created through her speech on the House floor. Republicans now blame her for the defeat, arguing that she was so partisan that some of their "yes" votes flipped and voted no. She may think this charge is unfair but since so much is at stake, she needs to go overboard to clear the air.
Third, the White House and Congressional leaders should count heads to make sure that everyone who voted "yes" today will do so again in a second vote. If the 228-205 margin holds, that means they have to flip at least 12 Members for a second vote. It will be much more difficult to get all of the switches from the Republicans. Solution: put in enough sweeteners so that each side has a bit more and get an agreement between Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner: "I will deliver 6 from my side if you deliver 6 from yours."
Fourth, Hank Paulson must take another look at the idea at the idea of bankruptcy courts being able to review and help to rewrite private mortgages. How many Democrats would come over to "yes" if that were done? And what can he do to sweeten the pot for at least a half dozen Republicans?
Fifth, Barack Obama and John McCain should now join up with President Bush and the Congressional leadership to give this bill a much more vigorous push. After his ill-fated intervention of last week, McCain turned surly today, blasting Obama - unfairly - for the defeat in the House. That is ridiculous. But it is true that Obama could be a lot more forceful than he has been in working behind the scenes to round up votes. Both men need to show much more leadership here. President Bush obviously has so little clout that he can't get this done. Obama and McCain should step up to help him - and good grief, avoid trying to claim credit or elbowing the other guy in the eye.
This is big time stuff. Washington isn't playing with matches here; it is playing with dynamite. For the sake of the country - and for our standing as a world power - we need LEADERSHIP!
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