Washington Prowler

Room Service

Secretary Paulson's Democrat guests. Also: Obama's "John."

By 9.29.08

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DROP-BY DEMOCRATS
Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson allowed his staff to let Sen. Chuck Schumer, among others, into the negotiating room over objections from the Republican negotiators also sitting there, Sen. Judd Gregg and House Minority Whip Roy Blunt.

As part of the agreement in setting up the negotiations taking place in the Capitol office Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, there would be four negotiators present in the room. But by late Saturday afternoon, Democrats had broken that agreement, sending Schumer, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, Sen. Max Baucus, and Sen. Jack Reed in and out of the negotiations. Reed, especially, was, according to a Treasury aide, a vocal participant in the negotiations, at one point shouting down Blunt.

Overshadowing the negotiations was Sen. John McCain, who had convened an emergency meeting of economic advisers and surrogates at his Arlington, Virginia national headquarters, and from there was making calls to mostly conservative members of the House caucus, measuring their willingness to back a compromise Wall Street bailout proposal.

Oddly -- at least from the Bush Administration perspective -- Democrats were insistent that Treasury Secretary Paulson remain at the helm of whatever funding/bailout entity was formed by the negotiations and legislation. Meanwhile, Republicans, led by McCain, were said to be proposing an independent chief of the bailout entity.

"It would have to be someone the American people could trust to do the right thing, protect their interests, not mismanage the fund, and reaffirm trust in the market," says a Senate leadership aide.

The idea of an "honest broker," as it were, was floated initially by the McCain campaign late Saturday, according to a knowledgeable Treasury aide, and was quickly opposed by Paulson and the Democrats.

MINDLESS GAME
Sen. Barack Obama and his debate prep team were surprised that Sen. John McCain remained calm and collected during the debate. Obama's continual references to "John," while McCain referred to Obama as "Senator," was intended to needle McCain's patience in hopes for a flash of McCain's infamous temper. But McCain was, according to campaign advisers, ready for the needle and didn't take the bait.

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