Debate to Go On Tonight, Reid Says Bailout Vote Possible by Monday

Just before noon EST today, it was announced that the debate between presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain will indeed go forward tonight as planned at the University of Mississippi. The debate had been in danger of being canceled as Washington legislators focus on keeping the nation’s financial system, and perhaps the economy as a whole, from collapsing. McCain agreed to the debate and at presstime was about to leave Washington on his way to Oxford, Miss. Meanwhile, mixed messages were filtering out about Congressional efforts to hammer out a rescue plan. In a press conference at noon EST, Democratic Sens. Chris Dodd and Harry Reid presented their perspective on the negotiations to create a financial-markets bailout plan that both houses can pass. Reid, the Senate’s majority leader, said “We’re making progress…. We’re going to get this done.” On the other hand, he also called for House Republicans to “become more involved” in the process and noted that “principles of fairness” demand that the legislation address the needs of the American people, not just Wall Street. Presumably in reference to the reportedly contentious meeting called last night by the White House, Reid said, “Insertion of presidential politics has not been helpful.” And referring to McCain’s widely reported reticence about the substance of a bailout plan, Reid said “We still don’t know where he stands on the issue.” Dodd emphasized two aspects of the plan that he called “nonnegotiable”: limitation of executive compensation and that “taxpayers will be covered,” both in terms of a potential financial upside from companies that are beneficiaries and some form of relief on residential foreclosures. Reid smiled as he reported “some degree of amazement” expressed by the White House that members of Congress have constituents who have to be respected. “We have responsibilities to Main Street.” Reid concluded by saying that if all goes well, probably a poor bet under the circumstances, “We could vote on this Sunday or Monday.” He added, however, that Congress has other important legislation, such as a major Amtrak bill, that also has to be attended to.