Could John McCain and Barack Obama be planning to skip what could be one of the most important votes of their senatorial careers?
The Politico website is reporting this week that both senators—apparently too busy trying to get elected president—are planning to skip the vote on the $700 billion Wall Street bailout package.
That vote, which is likely to calm financial markets, ease the fears of America’s allies and stave off a global financial meltdown, would create a still-undefined government entity to buy up the nation’s banking debt.
On Wednesday, McCain contradicted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who said the Republican presidential hopeful would support the bailout.
"I did not say that," said McCain, who has warned that the oversight provisions in the package are insufficient. Though he’s spoken out against the notion of rewarding disgraced Wall Street tycoons, he declined to answer whether his advisors, some of whom are former high-powered executives, shared his opposition to "golden parachutes."
Obama, meanwhile, said "the power to spend $700 billion of taxpayers' money cannot be left up to the discretion of one man, no matter who he is or which party he is from. I have great respect for [Treasury] Secretary [Henry] Paulson, but he cannot act alone."
Each candidate is calling for measures that would permit taxpayers to recoup some of the public money sunk into the deal
But advisors of both candidates, who will debate for the first time on Friday, strongly indicated earlier this week they’d be no-shows if and when the vote comes.
Senior Obama strategist Robert Gibbs told Politico that the campaign would be “monitoring the process” but would not commit to Obama making the trip back to Washington. That’s even as the bailout proposal has taken a central role in Obama’s stump speeches.
“It’s safe to say people will know where we are,” Gibbs said. U.S. Sen. Joe Biden also has not committed to return. He, too, is “monitoring” the situation, according to his aides.
McCain also has no plans to show up for hearings or a vote, even though he’s been quite vocal on economic policy over the last two weeks. He said he’d fire SEC chief Christopher Cox and expressed discomfort with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s trillion-dollar bailout plan. He’s even offered his own rescue proposal.
“Sen. McCain is monitoring the situation closely,” said campaign co-manager Steve Schmidt on a conference call Monday. “We will see how this unfolds this week.”
Neither Obama nor McCain returned to Capitol Hill for an important economic vote on July 26, when the Senate passed a massive housing bill to shore up mortgage markets and prevent hundreds of thousands of foreclosures.
Obama did return to the Senate July 10 to vote in support of stalled Medicare legislation, which had failed on an earlier attempt to clear the 60-vote filibuster hurdle. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, also made a dramatic appearance to vote for the bill, which blocked a scheduled 10.6 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements for physicians. The legislation passed, 69-30. McCain was the only “not present” on the Senate vote tally that day.
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