McConnell: White House trying to ‘jam’ GOP on financial overhaul legislation

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) exited a White House
meeting on the issue Wednesday and charged that the White House had ordered
Democratic senators to pull out of bipartisan talks on an issue on which Democrats
believe they have the advantage.

“They wanted to jam us,” said McConnell, whose message to
Obama was to allow negotiators back to the table.

“I naively thought we were heading in that direction until
the strings were pulled on the Democratic leaders,” McConnell said.

{mosads}White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs quickly fired back,
saying Obama had invited Republicans to join in reform efforts.

But Gibbs then warned Obama “would not accept bad policy in
pursuit of bipartisanship,” and also suggested Republicans were looking for
loopholes for large banks and other financial interests.

Obama has “made clear that bipartisanship should not be
equated with an openness to lobbyist loopholes and special interest carve-outs,
and that he would be unwilling to negotiate on some key issues,” Gibbs said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also fired a shot
at McConnell, saying a lock-out of Republicans was “a figment of his

Reid said Republicans have tried to obstruct almost every piece of legislation
Obama and Democrats have pushed for, and that financial reforms are no

“It’s obvious that the Republicans are saying ‘no’ again to progress for
America,” Reid said.

The financial overhaul bill was approved by the Senate
Banking Committee last month on a party-line vote after Chairman Chris Dodd
(D-Conn.) ended negotiations with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). Earlier talks
between Dodd and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) had also failed to reach a

Reid said the Senate would push ahead with the bill in its
current form “as rapidly as possible,” and he invited Republicans to
help improve the bill.

“It’s important the American people realize it’s difficult to work with
the Party of No,” Reid said.

Republicans have acknowledged that opposing financial
regulatory reform puts them in a difficult position, and some GOP senators have
predicted legislation will be approved by the Senate.

But the GOP has also stepped up its arguments this
week against the bill, which they say would set up a fund for permanent
bailouts of the financial sector that would have taxpayers subsidize
irresponsible behavior by Wall Street.

On Wednesday, there were new signs that Democrats might have trouble winning the 60 votes they’ll need to clear procedural hurdles before a final Senate vote.

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), who has voted with Democrats since arriving in the Senate earlier this year to move an extension of unemployment benefits forward, criticized the White House for using regulatory reform as a wedge issue. He said he couldn’t support the bill as written.

Dodd, however, said he didn’t think all 41 Senate Republicans would vote against his bill on the floor.

“I don’t think a number of Republicans want to be led by the nose into the pit,” Dodd said.

The White House and Obama, who appear to be relishing a
fight on the issue, told reporters
the bill would prevent bailouts, not lead to them.

“That’s the goal,” Obama said.

The two sides are fighting over a provision in the bill that
would create a $50 billion industry-supported fund to help financial firms
whose collapse would be detrimental to the economy. Republicans argue the fund
is insufficient and that taxpayers would be asked to step in if the fund didn’t
cover the costs of a future financial crisis.

Before the meeting, Obama warned that the overhaul needed to
be passed to prevent another financial “meltdown.”

“All of us recognize that we cannot have a circumstance in
which a meltdown in the financial sector once again puts the entire economy in
peril,” Obama said. “And that if there’s one lesson that we’ve learned it’s
that an unfettered market where people are taking huge risks and expecting
taxpayers to bail them out when things go sour is simply not acceptable.’’

Obama has said he wants to be able to sign the bill into law before the
two-year anniversary of the peak of the financial crisis in early fall. The
House has already passed a bill, and the Senate is expected to move quickly now
that the Easter recess is over.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner
will join Gibbs at the daily briefing
Wednesday afternoon, the White House said.

Joining the president in the Cabinet Room for the meeting on
financial regulatory reform were Geithner, Vice President Joe Biden, House Majority
Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Reid, the Senate majority leader, and McConnell, the minority leader, were also there, joined by Obama’s top

This story was posted at 11:38 a.m. and updated at 1:46 p.m.

Tags Bob Corker Boehner Harry Reid Joe Biden John Boehner Mitch McConnell

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