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What's Next In The Rescue Plan?


And we're joined now by the Chief Senate Republican negotiator on the bailout, that's Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. He's also ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. Welcome back to the program, Senator Gregg.

Senator JUDD GREGG (Republican, New Hampshire): Well, it's a pleasure to talk to you again.

BLOCK: You know, it seems like it was longer ago than this, but it was actually just Friday that we were talking and it seemed, at that time, that you were quite confident that this would all work out fine. What happened?

Senator GREGG: Well, I guess my optimism was misplaced, obviously, Melissa. The House vote was a surprise to me and I think an unfortunate event because as we saw, the stock market dropped 770 points there, and as a result, $1.2 trillion of American worth went out the window, which - I mean, its pension funds, IRAs, 401Ks, people's basic savings were dramatically hit. And then of course, we're continuing to see the rashing down of credit and unfortunately you may hit payrolls which would mean people won't get paid or they all have to lay people off. This is a very serious situation and to understate the seriousness of it would not be appropriate. And as a practical matter, the House vote has aggravated the situation dramatically.

BLOCK: And we just heard in you in David Welna's report there, saying it would be totally irresponsible of the Congress not to take action. You sound like you're blaming the House squarely for this failure.

Senator GREGG: Well, where did the bill fail?

BLOCK: Are you blaming House Republicans in particular?

Senator GREGG: No. I mean, there are a lot of people who didn't vote for it in the House who must have had some reason for doing that, which I'd love to have them explain to me.

BLOCK: In that House vote yesterday, about 60 percent of Democrats voted for the bailout, but less than a third of Republicans did. Doesn't that point to some issue within your party that you need to resolve? You need to give them something to bring them on board.

Senator GREGG: Well, in the Senate, we probably have the reverse situation. I know we have not had a vote yet, but I know we have a very strong Republican support in the Senate and I'm not sure how strong the Democratic support is. I hope it equals ours. You know, I would think that after watching what happened for a day or so, people would say to themselves, really, this was not a good idea to kill this package, that they wouldn't need more sweeteners. They certainly shouldn't get ear marks or anything like that, walking around money, so to say.

BLOCK: If I'm hearing you right, it sounds like what you're saying is essentially that more or less the same bill needs to get voted on again and it needs to pass or everything will fall apart.

Senator GREGG: That's pretty accurate. I mean, we don't have too many options here, and what we know is that we're heading into a very serious situation. It's sort of like that "Thelma & Louise" scene where they stepped on the gas and head for the cliff. I don't really think we want to go over the cliff.

BLOCK: But if these folks have voted against the bill in the House were so concerned about what they were hearing from people back home, what would make them change their mind? Aren't they still getting those exact same calls of people saying, don't bailout Wall Street.

Senator GREGG: Everybody is suspicious of the government, they should be. Gosh, that's a good attitude, in my opinion, to be suspicious of government. But you ought to have good facts when you make your decision and unfortunately, a lot of the information that's put out there was inaccurate. This idea that it was $700 billion being thrown out the window to help out fat cats in Wall Street. You know, what it was, the $700 billion to buy assets that had real value, which we can then basically help people who have those mortgages maybe stay in their homes, and then as a result, when the economy gets a little better, sell those assets back into the market and make a little money or at least breakeven. It's something that was misrepresented, I think rather grossly by those who had a different agenda. And it ended up costing Americans a lot of money to have this bill go down, a lot more than $700 billion, even if we were risking $700 billion, which we're not.

BLOCK: We've been talking with Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. Senator Gregg, thanks very much.

Senator GREGG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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