Seeking Shelby

 Sen. Richard Shelby, the ranking GOP member of the Senate Banking Committee, was noticeably absent from the bipartisan press conference this afternoon when lawmakers announced progress on the $700 billion bailout plan.

The infamously tough negotiator also didn’t participate in the morning’s three hour-long session because he doesn’t support the “thrust” of the plan being pushed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, said Shelby spokeswoman Laura Henderson.

Instead, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) took to the podium and has become the top GOP negotiator in the Senate.

But Shelby will be on hand for this afternoon’s White House meeting.