by: Daniel W. Reilly and Patrick O'Connor
There was a time when Dick Cheney could turn back a Republican revolt on Capitol Hill.
That time is gone.
House Republicans rose up en masse against their vice president on Tuesday morning to blast an administration proposal that would grant Treasury historic authority to start buying hundreds of billions of dollars in devalued mortgage-related assets, according to members present.
The lines to speak were long, the questions many and sentiment in the Cannon Caucus Room Tuesday swayed heavily against the Treasury proposal.
Afterward, Texas Rep. Joe Barton took the unusual step of telling reporters that he had politely given Cheney a piece of his mind – the sort of dissent Republicans considered unthinkable during much of the Bush administration's reign.
A full-throated Republican revolt could create huge problems for the administration and congressional Democrats scrambling to assemble a package to reassure jittery markets. It could also preserve the Republicans’ options after the fact – if the bailout doesn’t work or proves deeply unpopular with voters, they can say they opposed it.
Some Republicans at Tuesday’s meeting suggested Cheney, White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and economic policy adviser Keith Hennessey didn’t help their case.
“They were in worse shape when they left than when they came in,” said one lawmaker who was there. “These were the wrong guys…The problem is that they’ve used up a lot of good will.”