MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
As we heard earlier in David Welna's story, New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg is one of the Republicans in today's negotiations. He's the senior Republican on the Senate Banking Committee. I spoke with him earlier today, and he said it's critical that a deal be reached, because the economic situation is dire.
JUDD GREGG: It's extremely serious and it's going to hit Main Street really hard - already is in many instances - because the credit markets have essentially locked down. And so we need to do something, we need to do it quickly. We've been in negotiations for the last couple days to try to work on what was the - initially the Paulson proposal, and that's being amended and adjusted as the Congress puts its imprint on it. But I think we're making progress. I know we're making progress. We're moving in the right direction. We're down to some major issues, but those issues, I believe, can be resolved and we should stay here 'till we get it done.
BLOCK: Let me ask you, senator. We were hearing from both sides of the isle that there was progress being made up until the White House meeting yesterday. And it was then that your colleagues, the Republican colleagues in the House side, threw a pretty big wrench into all this - said that they were completely opposed to what was being discussed, and have their alternative plan, which is very far removed from what was agreed on before. What happens to - are you back at square one right now?
GREGG: Oh no, no. We're well down the road towards reaching a consensus here - I hope. We certainly made progress on a number of major things. After that meeting at the White House, there was a meeting up here. Secretary Paulson and leadership in the Senate and the House, and today there's...
BLOCK: But excuse me, were Republicans in that meeting? I understand it was that they refused to participate in that meeting with Secretary Paulson.
GREGG: No, actually, there was a Republican House - the ranking member of the House Finance Committee was there for a fair amount of the meeting.
BLOCK: But he left the meeting saying he wasn't authorized to negotiate, I believe.
GREGG: Well, he may have said that, but he was there and he heard what was going on. And now, Roy Blunt, who's the second ranking Republican in the House is participating in the negotiations that were undertaking as we speak. So I think the issues, you know, building a consensus on something this big, this complicated and this important is always a process of going forward, going back, going forward, going back, and just staying on the path to try to get where you want to go. And right now, everybody's got their oar in the water, and I think we're all pulling towards the shore, hopefully.
BLOCK: There seems to be some pretty big sticking points. It would seem that the Republican plan from the House wanted no government money up front at all. The compromise that was being worked on would require substantial amounts of government money may be phased in, but over time.
GREGG: Well, you know, everybody has their opinion. I believe what we'll end up with though, is the Secretary of Treasury will have the authority that he needs to step in to the markets, buy up assets which are non-performing with the resources to accomplish that - those purchases. And in a way that will free up the credit markets and protect the taxpayers, and by, I mean, protect the taxpayers make sure that we got an adequate return on those assets, which we buy and make sure that there is no windfall to people who have acted inappropriately.
BLOCK: Well, how do you bring the House Republicans on board, then?
GREGG: Well, I think the House Republicans are participating. That's why they sent the number two guy over. Actually, he's the most senior person in the room right now. The rest of us are - none of us hold leadership positions within our caucus. So I think - and maybe the press is trying to make something out of this - and there's no question there was a period there where House was trying to get their act together as to where - what position they wanted to be in and how they were going to proceed.
But, as a very practical matter, we're all on the room now. We're all talking and we're all, I believe, working in good faith to try to address what is a really critical problem for this country - and for especially mainstream America, because mainstream America is going to hit the hardest here when payrolls can't be met and people can't borrow to buy a car and they can't borrow to expand the business or you can't borrow to send their kids to school.
BLOCK: Senator Greg, what's your estimate on the time table for all of this to work its way through?
GREGG: Well first off, we shouldn't leave 'till we have an agreement - something that can give the Secretary the authority he needs to go out and take these actions, hopefully, can occur with - certainly no later than Monday.
BLOCK: Well, Senator Gregg. Thanks for talking with us.
GREGG: Thank you.
BLOCK: That's Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. He's one of the lead negotiators on the bailout plan before Congress.
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BLOCK: Quite a week in politics, we'll be back with our regular contributors E.J. Dionne and David Brooks, next on All Things Considered.
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