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Bush Meets With Obama and McCain, Details of Possible Deal Emerge

5:10 PM, Sep 25, 2008 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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Bush says he hopes everyone will reach an agreement "very shortly." He spoke briefly to reporters at the beginning of the meeting with the presidential candidates and Congressional leaders.

Negotiators are starting to define the strings attached to this package:

The tentative accord would give the Bush administration just a fraction of the $700 billion it had requested up front, with half the money subject to a congressional veto, congressional aides said. Under the plan, the Treasury secretary would get $250 billion immediately and could have an additional $100 billion if he certified it was needed. The last $350 billion could be blocked by a vote of Congress under the arrangement, designed to give lawmakers a stronger hand in controlling the unprecedented rescue.

The aides described the details on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Meanwhile Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has followed on the heels of Rep. John Boehner with his own statement saying, "Nope, no deal yet."

"Members from all sides of the aisle continue to talk. There was constructive progress among some members of the Banking Committee and we will review these and other ideas with the Congressional Leadership, the Secretary of the Treasury, the President and the two Presidential candidates."

Press coverage is quick to paint the tentative agreement on principles as a sewn-up situation, thereby depriving McCain of any possible political credit for delivering a deal, but the folks whom McCain might try to sway are still circulating other ideas with less government involvement:

A group of GOP lawmakers circulated a less government-focused alternative. Their proposal would have the government provide insurance to companies that agree to hold frozen assets, rather than have the government purchase the assets. Rep Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the idea would be to remove the burden of the bailout from taxpayers and place it, over time, on Wall Street instead.

The statements of Boehner and McConnell seem to suggest it's not just stalwart conservative fighters who aren't yet falling into line. Barney Frank's boasting about his newfound status as the "biggest mortgage holder in town" surely didn't inspire their confidence:

Under the bailout bill, which will let the government buy huge amounts of toxic mortgage-related assets, "we're now the biggest mortgage holder in town, and we can do serious foreclosure avoidance," Frank said.

Here's the gang at the big table. Bush: Who's lame now, huh?