The lead Senate Republican negotiator, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, is talking of the bailout as if the basic Treasury authority to purchase $700 billion in bad debt from Wall Street is not really negotiable.
"We need to act quickly to make it possible for the government to step in settle the credit markets," Gregg said.
Speaking to reporters outside the Senate chamber, Gregg did not want to comment directly on the House GOP alternative, released last night. House Republicans pitched a plan that focuses more on a mortgage insurance program, fewer regulations and lower taxes in an effort to create more liquidity in the market. The House GOP plan does not create any bailout authority and does not have a price tag.
None of the Senate GOP leaders have discussed the House Republican alternative as a viable replacement for the Treasury plan, and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), pointed out that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has already said it won't work.
Gregg, who has been empowered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to speak for the Senate Republicans, indicated that he will listen to the House Republican ideas, but it's not yet a major part of the legislative debate.
"We're starting with the agreement we reached" Thursday as the foundation for negotiations, Gregg said. That agreement was the one where House Republicans were largely left out of the negotiating.
But Gregg was careful to point out the negotiations were still in flux.
"My goal is to get a product, and I'm not going to discuss specifics," he said.