Lawmakers Choose Fighting About Politics Over Fixing the Economy, Basically

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Photo: AP

Last night when we turned on the television and saw a sweaty Barney Frank, railing against the House Republicans for whom fixing the ailing economy had apparently taken a back seat to partisan politics, we felt like a kid whose parents decided to go off on a meth binge, leaving us alone in our soiled diapers. Who will take care of us now? Yesterday began, it seemed, well enough: Representatives from both parties said they "fundamentally agreed" that a government bailout plan was needed and were beginning the process of ironing out details that would make everyone happy. “We’re in a serious economic crisis,” President Bush said, shortly before meeting with the presidential candidates, “My hope is we can reach an agreement very shortly.”

But then everything seems to fell apart: House Republicans declared that they were breaking with the president and would not support the plan, after all — instead, they said, they would work up an alternate plan that required less government intervention, which made barely any sense and came as a surprise to everyone except apparently John McCain, who said he'd known going in they were going to cock-block it.

After that, things got even uglier: Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson apparently got down on one knee and begged Nancy Pelosi not to "blow up" the bill (even though it wasn't her doing the blowing), President Bush, ever colloquial, described the economy as a "sucker" that was "going down," and Democrats pointed to John McCain's showboating as the root of the problem. "Sen. McCain goes to a meeting and all of a sudden, we lose all the Republicans who have been working with us for the last five days," California Representative Ellen Tauscher told the Journal. "This has to be a bipartisan deal. Unfortunately Republicans walked off the field."

Meanwhile, the economy continues to disintegrate like a sand castle on the beach: Last night, federal regulators brokered an emergency sale of Washington Mutual, the nation’s largest savings and loan, to JPMorgan Chase for $1.9 billion. According to the Times, this was the "largest bank failure in American history." Negotiations are supposed to resume this morning, without the House Republicans.

Talks Implode During a Day of Chaos; Fate of Bailout Plan Remains Unresolved [NYT]
Government Seizes WaMu and Sells Some Assets [NYT]
Bailout Negotiations in Disarray [WSJ]