April 19, 2010

Steve Benen got this one exactly right. As he noted after Mitch McConnell flew off to have a closed door meeting with the Wall Street elites and Candy Crowley asked him what was said at those meetings "the conservative Kentuckian was evasive -- imagine that -- and instead of answering the questions, he talked about scrapping the legislation altogether".

It's like deja vu all over again -- Democrats tackle a pressing national issue, negotiate with Republicans in good faith, craft a reasonable, middle-of-the-road legislative package that deserves bipartisan support, lobbyists tell Republicans to kill it, and McConnell voices his support for killing the legislation and going "back to the drawing board."

Is it me or does this sound familiar?

No, it's not just you Steve. He's exactly right. The Democrats can scrap the liquidation fund the Republicans are carping about and the Republicans will still find another reason not to support it. They are not negotiating in good faith and no one should take them seriously if they pretend they are. Hell, McConnell couldn't even bother to wipe the smirk off of his face during this interview.

McConnell's hackery is every bit as bad as that from Mike Johanns on Washington Journal the other day. They're both reading off of the same script when it comes to running the financial markets out of the United States, as if one, these companies aren't already spread out all over the globe with their operations, and two if another country wants to let them trash their economy by allowing them to be unregulated, then go. At least it won't be the American tax payers that are on the hook if they crash and burn. Sadly the C-SPAN callers did a better job of calling bulls**t on Johanns than Crowley did with Mitch McConnell.

Transcript via CNN below the fold.

CROWLEY: We want of course to get the Senate minority leader to respond. We have Mitch McConnell. He is joining us from his home state of Kentucky. Senator, thanks for being here with us. Right off the bat, the president says you are being deceptive in describing this bill.

MCCONNELL: Well, Candy, he ought to talk to his own treasury secretary, who agrees with me, as well as the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, that there is a bailout fund in the bill that was reported out of the Banking Committee, the partisan bill that came out of committee on a party-line vote.

CROWLEY: But that still does not--

MCCONNELL: I don't think that's in dispute.

CROWLEY: But that bailout is funded by the banks themselves, is it not? It is not a taxpayer bailout?

MCCONNELL: Well, Robert Reich, who was Bill Clinton's secretary of labor, says it is a bailout fund. I mean, regardless of how the money is produced, it is a bailout fund that sort of guarantees in perpetuity that we will be intervening once again to bail out these big firms. The president's own secretary of treasury toward the end of the week confirmed that they would rather not have it in there. I think we are all in agreement that the bill that I was referring to, except maybe the president hasn't talked to his own secretary of the treasury, has a bailout fund in it.

CROWLEY: So it does appear, and CNN has been reporting that senior administration officials have said to Senator Dodd, take out this liquidation pool that you're talking about. OK, let's say they take it out. Is the bill OK with you? Can we move on then?

MCCONNELL: Well, there are some other problems with the bill. What we ought to do is get back to the table and have a bipartisan bill, which is what we don't have at the moment, because the bill that everybody is referring to, the only one we have at the moment, came out of the committee on a straight party-line vote. I think we need to get back to the table and get it fixed.

Look, I don't know anybody in the Senate who thinks we ought not to pass a bill. The question is, what's it going to look like? We want to make sure that we don't set up a system whereby we empower the government to continue to do what it has been doing -- running banks, insurance companies, car companies. We have now seen them nationalize the student loan business, which will cost 31,000 jobs. The American people are saying, we don't want another bailout, but they also don't want a kind of perpetual government massive interventions across the board running private businesses.

CROWLEY: The president's accusation that the senator is being deceptive is not all that the president had to say. We want to talk a little more about that right after this break.


CROWLEY: We are back with the minority leader in the Senate, Republican Mitch McConnell. Senator McConnell, the president pretty tough on you during his radio address. Here is a little more of what he had to say, and I will ask you a couple of questions on the back half.


OBAMA: The leader of the Senate Republicans and the chair of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee met with two dozen top Wall Street executives to talk about how to block progress on this issue. Lo and behold, when he returned to Washington, the Senate Republican leader came out against common-sense reforms that we have proposed.


CROWLEY: OK, so what the president is saying is you met with Wall Street leaders, with the man who raises money for Republican Senate races, and talked about how to block this bill. Did the meeting take place? What was the conversation?

MCCONNELL: Well, we certainly didn't talk about blocking the bill. I don't know anybody who's in favor of blocking this bill.

MCCONNELL: I also met recently with the Kentucky bankers who are also opposed to this bill. The community banks, the little guys on main street. We're all meeting with a lot of people. This is the current subject. For the president to politicize this in the same speech in which he said we ought to de-politicize it is really quite amusing, the same day the Democratic National Committee is putting up Web ads trying to attack Republicans on this issue.

I thought he wanted us to have a bipartisan bill. That's what I would like to have. We are in the process of gathering information from people all across the country, from Wall Street to main street to try to get advice about doing this right.

Everybody in the Senate, everybody, Candy, in the Senate wants to pass a bill. But one that is opposed by the Kentucky bankers is certainly going to raise some concerns on my part. We need to fix it, get it right, and pass it on a bipartisan basis.

CROWLEY: Well, if the president is playing politics, you have to admit that it raises suspicions when you are meeting with Wall Street executives, as I take it you did, with Senator Cornyn, who raises money for Republican races. Doesn't that sort of set you up for this sort of accusation? That you went in there with the fund-raiser to talk about, you know, we've got to fight this bill.

I mean, what did you talk about?

MCCONNELL: Well, look, we were talking about financial regulation, as everybody in the country is talking about it. Most of the people in New York supported the president, the vast majority of them are on his side. They supported him during the election, they still support him. Is he saying we shouldn't sit down with his supporters and talk about a bill that he thinks we ought to pass and that I think we ought to pass? This is absurd, he...

CROWLEY: Why was Senator Cornyn there?

MCCONNELL: Candy, Candy, he is the one who is trying to politicize this issue. We are the ones who are trying to get it right. When the Kentucky bankers tell that this bill is a long way from being what we ought to pass, then it raises some concerns with me. And I think it does with all of our colleagues across the country who are hearing the same thing.

CROWLEY: Well, why was Senator Cornyn in the meeting? And what did the -- I understand what Kentucky bankers are telling you. But what did the Wall Street people tell you?

MCCONNELL: Well, they have concerns about the bill. The Kentucky bankers have concerns about the bill. We all have concerns about the bill. I have even heard the assistant Democratic leader of the Senate say he is not sure he can get all of his members to support this bill.

Right now, I think there is a pretty good shot -- a pretty good reason to believe that there is bipartisan opposition to this bill. We ought to go back to the drawing board and fix it.

CROWLEY: Let me try one more time. Why was Senator Cornyn in that meeting of all of the other senators you could have taken with you?

MCCONNELL: Senator Cornyn is a United States senator from Texas. He is going to be voting on this issue like all the rest of us are, simply because we are all involved in politics, as is the president. It doesn't mean that we can't discuss issues with people that we meet around the country who are deeply involved and concerned about what we are doing.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about derivatives, hugely important here, because derivatives are those sort of hedge bets that financial institutions make, sort of against other investments that they may have. And they were a huge part of the melt-down. Do you believe that those derivatives ought to be public and open so that everyone knows where they come from, what they involve, and how much they cost? Blanche Lincoln has an amendment to that effect.

MCCONNELL: Well, it is my understanding that there is broad bipartisan support for changing the current way derivatives are regulated. And you are going to have shortly on your show one of the members of the Banking Committee, a thoughtful Democrat, Senator Mark Warner, who has been deeply involved in this, you should ask him as well.

But I think this is an area where we're going to have bipartisan agreements that there ought to be change. I'm not a member of the Banking Committee. I can't tell you exactly what the change ought to be. But I think there is a broad agreement that there ought to be change.

CROWLEY: Well, as a general principle, shouldn't those derivative transactions be open? Shouldn't we -- the public and the investors know everything about those derivatives and have them out in the open?

MCCONNELL: Well, as a general rule, I think we ought to improve the current system, which everyone seems to feel is falling short. Exactly how that will be done we will leave to the experts on the Banking Committee who hopefully can work that part of it out on a bipartisan basis.

CROWLEY: So you will agree with whatever the Banking Committee comes up with?

MCCONNELL: Yes, we want to -- well, that's what we have been trying to achieve here is to resume the discussions that were going on within the committee. Senator Warner has been a big part of that, that were, we thought, going to lead to a bipartisan bill.

I'm hopeful that that will still happen. I think the fact that they reported a bill out of committee on a straight party line vote was not helpful.

CROWLEY: Senator, you know, are being charged at this point of rather -- that you would rather have this issue to take to the polls in November, to try to frame the Democrats as wanting endless bailouts rather than actually come to any sort of agreement. Do you risk being the party of no again?

MCCONNELL: That's not my view. I think we should get a bill. I think it needs to be done on a bipartisan basis. And we need to get it done as close to the right way as possible. This bill will have a lot more credibility if, unlike health care, which was jammed down everybody's throats on a partisan basis -- in fact, the only thing bipartisan about the health care bill was the opposition to it.

That is not how I view this bill. But I do think we need to get it right. We don't want to end up with the wrong kind of bill that exports our capital markets to London and Hong Kong and other places. The financial services industry in the United States has been an important part of our economy. We need to get this done correctly.

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