Rep. Blunt Discusses State Of Talks On Financial Rescue

House Minority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri is representing House Republicans in negotiations on the financial bailout of Wall Street. Blunt offers his insight on how those negotiations are proceeding.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

And as we heard in David Welna's report earlier, the House Republicans sent their second ranking leader to join the bailout negotiations today. That's the Minority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri and he joins us now. Congressman, welcome to the program.

ROY BLUNT: Melissa, it's nice to be with you.

BLOCK: You weren't party of these talks up until today, should you have been at the table?

BLUNT: Well, I don't think so. I was party to lots of discussions about this. I was in the first meeting a week ago when Secretary Paulson came over and talked to the leaders and the folks who were leading the committee about this, and really, I think a lot of things had to be gotten out of the way before we go on to the point that we are really able to move forward with the plan that really has the taxpayer protections and the homeowner protections that this plan ultimately needs and hopefully we can get there.

BLOCK: In the meantime, though, you had this meeting at the White House yesterday with this apparent House Republican revolt and the impression at least that your party in the House is in disarray.

BLUNT: Well, I don't think that that was the impression at all. I think the impression was our party is not in agreement in the House with what others might have been ready to do, and I think the fact that Senator McCain came back, that he became part of those discussions that frankly, he eventually decided that House Republicans insisting on more options, more taxpayer protections, more guarantees for the people who don't need to pay a bill here, this can be done in a way that the American taxpayer doesn't at the end of the day pay a bill, helped us establish our footing in this discussion, in these negotiations. And hopefully, over the next day or two, I can be part of that, and we'll have the support of enough people on the Republican side of the aisle that we can join Democrats and make this happen.

BLOCK: Well, that is your role, of course, to get Republicans in line as the whip. This is, I would thing, going to be an unpopular bill at home no matter what comes out of it. The perception will be it's a bailout. How hard is it going to be to get support?

BLUNT: Well, unless we had things that do show that it's really working at out series of problems, finding value where there is value, getting Main Street impact, getting money back to people who were trying to get college loans, people who are trying to start a business, people who are trying to build a house in your neighborhood. If we don't get there, we probably don't get this done unless the Democrats just decide to do it on their own. But we want to be helpful in a way that the American people look at this when it's over and say, they really did work hard to make the kind of changes that I would have wanted made if I'd been there doing this job myself.

BLOCK: You don't really think the House Democrats would go out and expose themselves voting on a bill that the president, the Republican administration wants without Republican backing, do you?

BLUNT: Well, they're really in the majority and I've been in the majority here. And we often didn't have help from Democrats on very hard things. Some of those that President Clinton wanted and many that were just clearly things that needed to happen in the country. But I don't want to go into the room. We haven't been in these discussions today with that in mind. Our discussions today have been let's get something done. And the real point, Melissa, is they could do this by themselves if they wanted to.

But hopefully, what they want to do is have a bill that some people from both sides can vote for and that means you have to have some compromises in this bill that are going to move the bill more toward taxpayer guarantees, more options than just purchasing bad assets and more free-market principles, and we can get there, and the very best thing to do would be to get there by the end of the weekend so when the markets open around the world Sunday night and in the United States on Monday morning, that there's a level of assurance that whatever needed to happen in Washington happened and happened in a right way.

BLOCK: Do you think that's doable?

BLUNT: I think it's doable, and I'm going to do everything I can to see that it gets done.

BLOCK: We've been talking with the Minority Whip of the U.S. House, Roy Blunt of Missouri. Congressional, thanks very much.

BLUNT: Good to talk to you.

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