Thursday, September 25, 2008

Reid: McCain interfering with progress on bailout

Posted: 09/25/08 01:30 PM [ET]

Senate Democratic leaders accused John McCain on Thursday of interfering with progress on a Wall Street bailout, saying the Republican presidential candidate is parachuting into the debate at the last minute.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said McCain has played an insignificant role on banking issues and is now trying to capitalize on the situation when it is nearly concluded — a point echoed by other Democratic leaders.

Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.) announced Wednesday he is suspending his presidential campaign to help with the last stage of negotiations on a $700 billion plan to stabilize the U.S. financial markets. But Democrats have quickly pointed out that McCain serves on neither the Senate Banking nor Finance committees and is now distracting key negotiators by bringing his presidential campaign into an already complex political process.

“If we lose progress on this because of one person, that’s John McCain,” Reid said. “He’s standing in the way.”

At the same time, Reid downplayed McCain’s past contributions, noting that he is “one of 100” and has offered more than one position this week on the financial plan.

“He’s had trouble making up his mind, so if John McCain is opposed to this, that’s too bad,” Reid said. “I think he’s standing in the way of our efforts at approving this legislation now.”

During a two-minute walk across the Capitol, surrounded by a swarm of reporters and photographers, McCain repeatedly ignored shouted questions about Democratic claims whether he was "interfering" with delicate talks on a financial bill.

McCain has not introduced any banking or housing bills in the 110th Congress, while Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has proposed five.

Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) — who is co-chairman of Sen Obama's presidential campaign — said McCain is simply grandstanding and has a demonstrated record of apathy and deregulation toward Wall Street.

“This notion that somehow John McCain is going to ride to the rescue is a notion in his own mind, not in reality,” Durbin said. “Bringing a presidential political campaign to the halls of the Capitol is not going to make this any easier.”

Later, Durbin said the criticism of McCain “is not a question of substance.”

“It’s a question of him bringing in his presidential campaign,” Durbin said. “It creates a lot of diversion to getting down to business and negotiating. Now we’ve got competing presidential candidates and appearances."

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