Representative James Clyburn came to the defense of House Democrats this morning, telling MSNBC's Joe Scarborough that after all the votes are tallied up, it was the House GOP that failed to deliver on their promised goal of bringing half their caucus on board to pass the bailout package. That said, Clyburn was quick to offer what he thought to be a simple solution to get the bailout package passed in the House: add the bankruptcy reform provision that progressive members of the House Democratic caucus wanted in the bill in the first place, that would "empower bankruptcy judges to help homeowners avoid foreclosure." The addition of bankruptcy reform would, in Clyburn's estimation, rustle up "fifteen or twenty" more votes. "Put in the bankruptcy provision and the Democrats will be there to deliver this," Clyburn declared.
Why wasn't this reform in the original bill? Clyburn cited White House opposition in his remarks, but, in fact, Clyburn is soft-footing significant opposition to a bankruptcy reform drop-in from one of their own - Barack Obama. Last Wednesday, speaking to reporters in Florida, Obama dampened the possibilities of bankruptcy making it into the bailout package when he said, "Issues like bankruptcy reform, which are very important to Democrats, is probably something that we shouldn't try to do in this piece of legislation." Obama went on to say that even the economic stimulus proposal was "not necessarily something that we should have in this package."
SCARBOROUGH: Congressman, help us out. Let's make a deal here. You get us five Democrats to vote for this, quote, "crap sandwich," in the words of John Boehner and we'll get McCain to get five Republicans and the markets will rebound.
BRZEZINSKI: We have him on in an hour.
CLYBURN: I was asked to produce 118 votes. I produced 140. They were asked to produce 100 votes. They produced 65. So where do we stop this? The fact of the matter is we got together, we decided that each one of us needs to produce half of our caucuses and they failed.
SCARBOROUGH: Okay. Well, we are where we are right now in the markets 777 points down. Since you were so great of a man, I'm sure you can find us five more votes.
BRZEZINSKI: Just five, sir.
CLYBURN: All you got to do is put the bankruptcy provisions back in there and the entire Congressional Black Caucus would vote for it, that's all they ever asked for. If businesses can use the bankruptcy laws, let's say to these people, small businesses, individuals, you are going to be protected with our bankruptcy laws with your foreclosures and other things. And they refused to put the bankruptcy provisions in the law. That's why the Congressional Black Caucus had problems with this bill.
SCARBOROUGH: Can you not find five members of the Congressional Black Caucus, just five in safe districts to vote for this thing?
CLYBURN: I could find 15 or 20, all you got to do is put bankruptcy provisions in the law and you got it.
SCARBOROUGH: I'm sure Republicans would want to put in cuts in the capital gains tax. We can't throw ornaments on this Christmas tree.
CLYBURN: That's why you talk about negotiations. We gave up something on our side, they gave up something on their side. We went beyond our goals fromn 118 to 140. They failed 35 short of their goal.
BRZEZINSKI: But if the Republicans had told them they don't have the votes, would you have pulled the bill?
SCARBOROUGH: Why was it -- that's the next question. Why was this bill put on the floor when you guys didn't know whether it was going to pass or not?
CLYBURN: I talked to Roy Blunt two hours before the vote and I asked him where he was. He told me he was short of his 100. He told me he thought he was somewhere in the high 70s or low 80s. I said, Roy, if that's where you are, then we can go to the floor because I think I got a cushion for you. And I did have the cushion for him. He just didn't get to the high 70s or low 80s as he said he could.
BRZEZINSKI: That's inside baseball there.
SCARBOROUGH: Are you saying now it's the Republicans that have to find the other ten votes or are you saying we have to crap this whole thing, throw in the bankruptcy provisions, and have the Democrats carry this over the finish line.
CLYBURN: Put in the bankruptcy provision and the Democrats will be there to deliver this.
GEIST: Congressman, that's what you're going to do or that's what you would like to do.
CLYBURN: That's what we would like to do. The White House, Remember, we're responding to President Bush. He could put that in before it leaves the White House. They have been fightin to keep it out. That's all we asked them to do.