The Corner

Two Weeks in the Sausage Factory

After this week we can’t be sure it means all that much, but both the Republican and the Democratic leaders in the House have said this afternoon they expect the bailout bill will pass the House on Friday. Boehner on Fox said:

It’s still under discussion; it could be Thursday night or it could be Friday morning. I think early on Friday is the latest that we can expect that this bill will pass.

And Hoyer on CNN said:

I think there’s going to be a strong effort to see that we can pass this bill, hopefully on Friday.

The Paulson plan was put on the table on September 20th. If this version of it passes on Friday, that would be 13 days later. That’s less than two weeks to consider, digest, revise, amend, and improve a presidential proposal and enact an astonishingly massive federal response to a largely unexpected enormous financial crisis. Anyone accustomed to seeing Congress in action ought to marvel at the efficiency of it all. It’s ugly, messy, rowdy, and nerve wracking, but this is what the process looks like when you speed up the film, not when everything falls apart. It looks likely that the final product will be significantly better and smarter than the original proposal, and the world has not burned down in the meantime. I think I would have voted against the original bill, but I think I’d vote for the revised one. It’s still awful, but I’m persuaded something of this sort is necessary, and the bill is very much improved–probably about as much as Republicans can reasonably expect when they’re the minority party in both houses.

The talk of a terrible leadership crisis just seems vastly overblown. In the moment by moment analysis, everything looks big and terrible. But if this passes on Friday, we might take the weekend to calm down and then look at the last two weeks and ask ourselves when we’ve ever seen the process work so swiftly and well. I can’t help loving the House of Representatives in all its gruesome glory though, so maybe I’m being too sanguine. And of course the bill might not actually pass on Friday, and then we’ll be back to talking about Armageddon.

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.

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