Barney Frank says Treasury Secretary Paulson has become more flexible as he realizes the vehemence of anti-bailout opposition:
"Within the parameters of this bill I think we're getting close," the House Financial Services Committee chairman told reporters after his two-plus hour hearing with Paulson and Ben Bernanke this afternoon.
Five points from Frank:
1. Democrats' insistence on changes to the bankruptcy law to help distressed homeowners rewrite terms of their mortgages has emerged as "contentious" issue between Paulson and Democrats - with the secretary giving less ground on this point than others.
2. Paulson will probably agree to a down payment on the $700 billion, first proposed by Chuck Schumer -- provided he gets assurances that the money will be there when he needs it. "I think that issue is one where they're making progress," Frank said.
3. In another big concession on the scale of compensation caps, the administration is "permissive" about the idea of giving the federal government an equity stake in companies that use the bailout. "We're gonna put it in [the Democrats' bill] and I think he accepts the fact that it's going to be in there," Frank says.
4. House and Senate Democrats will probably produce a bill and hand it off to Congressional Republicans on Thursday.
5. The president's speech tonight will probably help -- even if Frank initially opposed it -- to quell the growing backlash. "If he doesn’t say anything, it's hard for people to get that there's a real crisis," he added.